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TEKUMEL®: Empire of the Petal Throne (TSR)
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/03/2017 05:50:29

Sad to say, but this another useless and underwhelming release from the Tékumel Foundation; a redux of the Tékumel Sourcebook unsatisfactory re-issue if you will.

What is the point of this Empire of the Petal Throne re-release? If it is to make the Foundation feel good about itself, it's a success; I say this in light of the Foundation's excited blog posts about it. But if it is to attract new players to the world of Tékumel, it fails, spectacularly. We're talking about a scan (not even a full re-write) of a game that was published 42 years ago, warts and all. Ah, yes, it's interesting to read the introductions that G. Gygax and D. Arneson penned upon the releases of The Empire of the Petal Throne. But then, so what? And what about the old-fashioned system, which is quite clunky if you ask me. Outside of a handful of collectors, hardcore OSR gamers, and long time fans of the world, no players in their right mind would be tempted to dive in. Moreover, to get to that charming-because-obsolete-? 42 year old system, one has to deal with the utterly awful, 1975 page design and font choice. But that's what you get from scans of the original game! Once again, outside of a handful of hardcore collectors and Petal-heads, no significant number of players is going to acquire this game, let alone play it.

This re-issue was first announced on the Tékumel Foundation blog in January 2016. It's now Fall 2017 and we finally have it, as a print-on-demand book and as a PDF. I won't discuss the quality of the print-on-demand version, as I don't own it (nor do I plan to order it), but I do own the PDF and I have one question: why is the PDF not searchable, after over a year of work of this re-issue, from a scan? This is utterly unforgivable, as it makes the PDF pretty much useless. Should we expect a searchable PDF in another year, for an obsolete game that no one is going to play? What is the point of all this useless, glacially-paced, laughably amateurish activity? Who is this game supposed to reach? None of the vaguely curious players I know, for sure.

(I'll note here that on the day of its release, the PDF actually contained a mistake, quickly fixed by the Foundation: missing pages! So yes, after over a year of work, after a few blog posts trumpeting its imminent release, the Foundation had managed to release a truncated PDF of the Empire of the Petal Throne.)

Per its mission statement, the Tékumel Foundation is "to encourage, support and protect the literary works and all related products and activities surrounding Professor M.A.R. Barker’s world of Tékumel and the Empire of the Petal Throne". This sub-par, uninspiring new release proves, once again, that the Foundation is incapable of fulfilling its mission. The Foundation protects the Tekumel IP alright, to the point of sabotaging pro-game designers' attempts to instill new life into its dried up carcass, but forget about encouraging or supporting. More like discouraging and undermining, as this re-issue proves. As a result, Professor Barker's creation has never been so irrelevant, which is quite an accomplishment considering how poorly the Tékumel IP was managed during Professor Barker's lifetime.

I urge the people of the Foundation to take the responsible step of stepping aside and let actual game creators and writers take over the reigns of what's left of Professor Barker's dwindling legacy. One cannot improvise oneself game designer or publisher. It's as simple as that. The world of Tékumel needs to be presented in a new and exciting way to a new audience, which can't be too hard as we're dealing with one of the most colorful, detailed, and creative fantasy worlds ever created, full of telepaths, weird creatures, forgotten technology, exotic social mores, far out history, and endless mega-dungeons. And this re-issue of a scan of the 42 year old Empire of the Petal Throne is definitely not it.

Please, let established companies and/or game-designers/publishers, with the know-how and energy to save Professor Barker's legacy, take over.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
TEKUMEL®:  Empire of the Petal Throne (TSR)
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TEKUMEL®: Empire of the Petal Throne (TSR)
by Brit B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/16/2017 20:31:59

I’m coming at the Empire of the Petal Throne (EotPT) setting for the Tekumel system as a GM of a little over a decade, so my referee experiences have largely been with modern high-fantasty systems with a heavy dose of homebrew. The Old-School revival interests me not just in a mechanical sense, but I also enjoy getting a feel for the history and the concepts. Many thanks to my gaming groups' patience as I learn and tinker.

EotPT takes sci-fi, buries it in history, and uses it as fertilizer for a wild and wondrous fantasy setting. Iron is rare and chitinous monstrosities are the primary sources of armor. Referees coming to this world with no previous exposure may benefit from keeping a note sheet to keep tabs on vocabulary and interesting details. This is a unique world with very little bearing to the tropes I was familiar with (a lovely challenge). The language sections are fascinating to read on their own, but I would strongly suggest that prospective referees start with sections 2800-2840 for a brief overview of what to expect.

The duplicate page mentioned in an older review of the .pdf has been addressed in the updated .pdf and the print edition. The softcover physical copy is an 8.5x11” soft cover with a glossy cardstock cover. Mine is already a little dinged up in the corners, but I am known for being rather tough on my things. The spine seems like it can take a fair bit of abuse. Text is clean and consistent throughout. Accent marks on many of the letters look hand-written but those marks don’t affect readability, instead they remind me of how much work went into creating this language and all its intricacies. I’m excited to get my players up to a level high enough where they can become citizens so I can present them with a citizenship document included and have them recite it.

Simple but striking black & white illustrations are frequent, which is good since I’m pretty sure you don’t know what a Pé Chói is, but you will soon. Each monster has about a paragraph of description for inspiration and a basic stat block. There’s a hex map of the main country along with ungridded maps of the main city, Jakálla, and the five empires to get you started. It is old school in my favorite sense, they give you the basics and let you run with it.

Character creation has some of the same flavor as found in EotPT's mid-70s contemporaries in that you aren’t always going to get what you want. Percentile-based character creation means there are equal chances for an incredibly brilliant or jarringly flawed character, which can be upsetting for players used to the bell curve characters that “4d6 minus lowest” can generate. There are 3 core classes but ample room for personal flavor, but you may need to roll up a couple different options just in case the dice aren’t on your side.

Overall, I’d say this isn’t something you could pick up and play in an evening. Getting the flavor and pronunciation and background just so takes time but it pays dividends.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
TEKUMEL®: Empire of the Petal Throne (TSR)
by Hagen K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/16/2017 18:11:13

I've known Victor Raymond for 22 years as we were friends on ISCABBS in the RPG forum where he was the forum moderator and he asked if I would be interested in writing a review of this reissue of the Empire of the Petal Throne book. I pointed out that I have zero experience with his writings or earlier game products. He thought it was a good idea to have some reviews from people with no past experience as well.

So there is my upfront disclaimer. I thought I would just go through the book by section and then just give an overall review at the end.

Part 1 - 100 Introduction: Foreword by Gary Gygax and Intros by Dave Arneson and MAR Barker do a good job of setting expectations. Gary and Dave in establishing MAR's credentials and Dave and MAR start getting your senses ready for the experience of the Petal Throne.

200 The World of Tékumel: Here we have the history of the world. MAR is clearly in love w/the accent mark, and I'm not sure if there is an external history book that all the bibliographical references spread throughout reference or not. For those with deep knowledge of the world, this might be kind of cool. For me it was honestly just a bit much, but whatever, it's fine. The history itself is interesting, as Tékumel is a world that was once high technology, but then it fell back into barbarism. The eventual decision of keeping the emperor completely sealed away from everyone is definitely a different method of ruling.

300 Character Types: Compared to many RPGs you are going to see a simplified character system. You are looking at Warriors, Priests and Magicians as character classes. Alignments are Good and Evil and they clarify that even evil never attack people within their own party, solving some issues that sometimes arise frompeople deciding to play evil characters and then wanting to kill literally everyone. Nice touch. There is a section of nonhuman alignment and how they relate to man and it mentions their characteristics are given later (startinng page 48).

400 Determination of Character: Character traits in Tékumel are Strength, Intelligence, Constitution, Psychic Ability, Dexterity, and Comeliness, recorded in percentile. You roll percentile and refer to the table for the bonuses or minuses. You are discouraged from just rerolling one, they want you to keep the set and if you don't like it, throw the whole thing back and re-roll it all. When you level, you have an opportunity to raise stats, which is cool. This section also covers original skills you had prior to becoming an adventurer and you can also gain more of those as you level.

Profession skills are covered in this section as well. Warriors, of course, learn many fighting skills. Priests can gain things like Telepathy or Cure Light Wounds or Remove Curse. Magic Users learn things like Telekinesis, Illusion, Necromancy, and The Grey Hand, which is an instant death power. Definitely something that conjures imagery in your head. Spells are typically usable once or twice a day and reset at 6AM. Yeah, roosters crow, spells reset. I dunno. There is also a chart with chances of a spell not working.

500 Bonus Spells: There is a chart for Priests and Magic Users to get extra spells possibly when they gain a level. The spells that show up on this list are in different groups and are different spells than from the spells found in the previous section. I did find it interesting that there is no separation between Priest and Magic User in this section and things that might normally feel like Priest spells in D&D could get picked up by Magic Users here. Interesting sounding spells like The Vapour of Death, The Demon, The Hands of Kra the Mighty are all found in this section.

600 Experience Levels & Points: Unlike early D&D, there is 1 experience point table that is shared. If a character has their primary stat at 81-95 (Strength for Warrior, Intelligence for Priest, Psychic Ability for Magic User), they gain a 5% XP bonus. If their primary stat is at 96-100, they gain a 10% bonus. If their Constitution is 96-100, they gain a 5% XP bonus. As you increase in levels you gain less XP to simulate the decreased pace.

700 Hit Dice, Combat & Damage: All characters are d6 hit dice based, and hit dice are completely re-rolled each level. You can't have less than you had the prior level of course, so you gain at least the minimum extra over your previous level. This is definitely different than what I am used to, as every other game with hit dice has been keep what you have and add. I could easily imagine gaining a level and having had several levels of bad rolls and then have one level with an amazing roll and all of a sudden have SO many more hit points. So, that wouldn't suck.

There are a couple of charts for men attacking men, and nonhumans and animals attacking men. Discussion about weapon types, damage (mostly d6), missile fire, battle order, the combat round, damage dice, double damage, instant death, and morale are all covered in here as well. I'm not entirely clear how initiative is determined for combat, altho there is a convoluted method given for capturing a surprised opponent.

800 The 'Hitilakte" Arenas: There are fighting arenas in Tékumel and there is a table given for wagers based on the fighter's level. This is another small section of the book that adds a nice touch of character to the world

Part 2 - 900 Starting the Game: "You all arrive in a small boat at the great Tsolyáni port city of Jakalla". I'm missing a couple of accent marks, but that's basically how the section starts. You have a bit of money and here we have the beginning of what many players really love, equipment lists and encumbrances.

1000 Nonplayer Characters: Nonplayer characters (including slave costs), hired henchmen, salaries, and NPC reactions are covered here.

1100 Encounters: Encounters in Jakalla, on the Sakbe Roads (the raised fortified highways that connect the empire), various other encounter tables. This is the section where we finally get to the non-human race descriptions mentioned in the character generation section earlier.

1200 The Underworld: Scattered around Tékumel are forgotten ruins dating back to prehuman ages. some of them are entrances to the "Underworld". Descriptions of the Underworld, encounters and some of the beings you will encounter here are included here. There is also a cheatsheet table of all the nonhumans and creatures of Tékumel found in this section.

Part 3 -

1300 The "Eyes": These are old high tech items that are usually discovered in the Underworld beneath the older cities. There are many abilities available on the eyes and some discussion of availability and price. Some of these are very interesting.

1400-1900 Magic Items: This is a pretty usual section for anyone who has ever bought a D&D book. Lots of magic items and prices.

2000 Saving Throws: Saving Throws are divided into Poison, Spells, Paralysis/Hypnosis, Eyes. Pretty straight forward.

2100 The Gods, Cohorts & Divine Intervention: There are 5 Good, and 5 Evil Gods in Tékumel. Each god is served by a cohort. Once per week there is a chance for Divine Intervention, via a percentile roll on a table. Chances are increased by making offerings. The Good gods accept magic items, but the evil ones accept human sacrifice.

2200 Treasure: When you adventure, you gotta get loot! Tables help determine how much

2300 Support, Salaries, Jobs, Fiefs, & Taxes: If you ever wondered how big the hexes on your map were and how much your fiefdom would generate, this is the section for you.

2400 Erecting & Buying Buildings: Goes along with the previous section. Once you start having piles of money and you want to spend it on building a castle or mansion, go here.

2500 Advertising: You need to advertise to sell your goods, here are some ideas to help you do that.

2600 Relatives & Requests: Discussion of wills, marriages, etc. Assuming this is for very long running campaigns or people running generational games.

2700 Time: General information about the passage of time in Tékumel, as well as the current year, 2354 AS (After the Seal of the Imperium).

2800 To Respective Referees: Just a quick aside to the someone thinking of running the setting, letting them know it's ok that things aren't like everything else and to enjoy the differences. There's also some guidance given for developing an Underworld and an example of a nicely detailed sample Underworld. Discussion of devloping a scenario, NPCs and other regions and cities are included as well.

2900 Appendix A: Pronunciation: Pretty straightforward.

3000 Appendix B: The Tsolyáni Script: Explanation of the written language of Tékumel, how things look in English and how they look in Tsolyáni, as well as a couple of sample documents.

3100 Appendix C: Key to the Map of Jakalla: What you expect a map key to be, explaining all the locations on a map

After the map you have a list of tables from earlier in the book as well as a couple of ads at the very back of the book. Overall you definitely have an old school gaming book that provides you with that feel. The art, the tables, some of the minutae, all definitely reminded me of the earlier days of gaming. The history section at the beginning of the book was interesting and I'm curious for more, but I don't know if any of my local friends have read any of the Petal Throne books. I may have to find some. If you are looking for something different in your old school gaming, I can give this a thumbs up.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
TEKUMEL®: Empire of the Petal Throne (TSR)
by Steven H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/16/2017 17:53:45

One of the first generation of Vintage Games from TSR is back in print, but it may not be the one you expected. Pre-dating and influencing the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons first edition is Empire of the Petal Throne, one of the earliest games to move away from European fantasy tropes and introduce genuinely exotic concepts into fantasy role playing. Relatively popular at the time, it had since faded into near obscurity until a re-print in 1987 piqued interest, which was later followed by a re-working of the game in 2005 by Guardians of Order using a varation of their own internal game engine, supported by the publishing of several supplements to the game. This is a re-print of the original rules as presented in 1975, and should be at the top of the list for any fans of the early games, but especially those who are still playing those versions.

The physical book itself is perfect bound, and the colour printing on the cover is well done, with no bleed in the colours and all the details highly visible. The text on the internal pages is crisp and precisely aligned on all pages. Care was clarely taken to make sure the copy used for the images was very clean, as there are no random splotches or missing text anywhere. The line drawings are very clear, with fine lines as visible as heavier ones, meaning the contrast was carefully tuned to make sure the printing process did not over print details as sometimes happens with print-on-demand products. The pages are very secure, and the spine is solid with no glue evident between the internal sheets. The covers are fairly heavy weight, so laying the book open anywhere but the middle isn't happening, but that is an issue with perfect bound in any case.

The rules are exactly as the 1975 edition laid them out, which means it is more of a tool kit than modern gamers may be used to. Endless lists of skills, feats, spells and equipment would not appear in games for another decade, but like the Original Dungons and Dragons, new items are very easy to add if desired, as there are not dozens of intertwined mechanics to account for when creating something new for the game. Combat is very much simpler and faster, as was the design aesthetic for Vintage Games, leaving more time to explore and interact with the world and its inhabitants. Combat is also more lethal in many cases, so deciding which enemies to fight becomes a greater part of gameplay, as not every opponent is meant to be vanquished through force of arms. Additionally, large portions of the world are essentially left to the referee to flesh out as they see fit, providing the opportunity to make the campaign conform to their own vision, although the kingdoms shown in the book are more than enough material for years of adventure.

If you are a Vintage Gamer tired of scouring every online nook and cranny for the original Empire of the Petal Throne, look no further. This edition is everything you need and more, with additional supplements soon to be published. Modern gamers interested in retro-gaming looking for a less complicated set of rules with an exotic feel can do no better than this printing of Empire of the Petal Throne. Everything you need is contained within this book, and players will need nothing more than their character sheets and their imaginations to enjoy conquering their foes and rising to dizzying levels of power!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Tekumel Sourcebook - Swords & Glory Vol. 1
by Zygmunt L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/23/2017 09:43:39

I ordered both the hardback print-on-demand and the PDF here in the UK. I'll review the content separately from the presentation.

If you want to run a Tekumel campaign, this is the one book you must have. It is a stunning piece of creative work, and more than anything else helps you understand the mystique that has grown up around Tekumel and The Empire of the Petal Throne. The author, Professor M.A.R. Barker, was a teacher of linguistics who travelled extensively in Asia and who has created a completely alien world. It is wonderful. Tekumel is very different to anything in the western fantasy tradition because its influences are South Asia, Southeast Asia and Latin America.

The Tekumel Sourcebook describes the 50,000 year history of the planet Tekumel, the civilization, cultures and customs of the Five Empires, and especially Tsolyanu (The Empire of the Petal Throne). How do people dress and speak. How the armies and 20 temples are organized. Then there are all the non-human species (8-limbed Ahoggya, flying Hlaka, dragon-like Shen etc.), the inimical races (beware of the scent of musty cinnamon from the Ssu), magic and the 20 otherplanar entities - the "gods" of Tekumel.

The hardback is very good quality. I'd wondered if it was worth going for hardback over paperback, and I'm pleased I did. The 158 pages are perfect bound, and the boards are covered with a glossy print. The cover art is a very nice stylized piece of art from Tekumel, and deserves a close look.

The book is a scan and reprint of the original Gamescience edition from 1983. I think someone once described that book as a crime against typography - the text was set in 2 columns in something around 8 pt or smaller. It is difficult to read. To put that in context, each page would expand to about 3 pages if it was printed normally. Having said that, it is far better to have a reprint now, rather than waiting for some ideal edition in the future.

My recommendation. If you want to run a Tekumel campaign, get The Tekumel Sourcebook as both print-on-demand and a PDF, and also get the EPT maps (also available as PDFs). You will also need a set of rules. If you want an old-school game, the original 1975 EPT rules are available in print-on-demand. If you want a modern rule set, try Bethorm or Tirikelu. There are also various home-brew systems around.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Tekumel Sourcebook - Swords & Glory Vol. 1
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Maps for Empire of the Petal Throne
by Niall T. S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/14/2017 16:20:35

Only buy these maps if you want to support the Tekumel Foundation, or if you want to complete a collection of old school material. They're not very nice to look at, the print and labels are hard to read, and there are only two maps. The Eastern half of the continent described in Swords and Glory Vol. 1 is not included (most of Salarvya). Honestly, you could just download the preview, which includes both maps!



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Maps for Empire of the Petal Throne
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The Tekumel Sourcebook - Swords & Glory Vol. 1
by Scott M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/12/2016 17:29:31

I purchased the hardcover - physical quality is excellent, and the text itself is sharp and readable throughout. For sheer amount of information, this is still THE one stop source for Tekumel; the Sourcebook is also a good read since it's well written and entertaining. While I have all the previous editions, I'm happy to have picked up this latest version, and that this title is back in print for gamers to enjoy.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Tekumel Sourcebook - Swords & Glory Vol. 1
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The Tekumel Sourcebook - Swords & Glory Vol. 1
by David B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/05/2015 08:35:11

I am a long time fan of Tekumel and was very excited to see this volume available again. BUT the quality of the pdf is not good. It looks like a low-res scan of the book. When you zoom in to read the text it is almost impossible to see. Someone really needs to fix this issue. The text is unreadable and it cost $20! Fans want this material and people new to Tekumel should not think that this is the typical product of the folks that made this setting great. Really, if it wasn't Tekumel I would have given only one star.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Creator Reply:
It\'s actually a 600dpi scan of the original text, with a lot of work done to clean it up. But we appreciate the feedback - we just wanted to make sure that the original was back in print. This is encouragement for our plans to make a much more readable version available when we have the chance - hopefully soon!
Notes from the Thursday Night Group
by Alex N. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/28/2014 13:25:32

A collection of short reports assembled from notes taken during the sort of seemingly loose Tékumel gaming sessions M.A.R. Barker used to lead.

The small booklet contains enlightening and inspiring details on Tékumelian daily life, that make running a few scenarios in Barker's world completely manageable and memorable. It's also very funny: you don't know how stultifying temple politics can be until you've tried to revive the body of a possessed companion (that particular report is itself a complete-adventure idea).

Highly recommended read.

My only regret? That it's so short ... and so unique: it indeed doesn't look like the good folks of the Tékumel Foundation have plans to publish more of these.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Notes from the Thursday Night Group
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Maps for Empire of the Petal Throne
by Mikael T. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/21/2014 11:36:21

The map itself is quite good-looking and the scan is of high quality, reproducing the colours very well. What troubles me here is the low resolution of the scan. With 100% zoom you cannot see hex numbers or most names written on the map. In other words the map is pretty useless unless you zoom in a lot, when it becomes pixellated and does not look good anymore. Such a shame.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Maps for Empire of the Petal Throne
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Notes from the Thursday Night Group
by Robert H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/21/2014 18:10:59

This is a great short product. In one sense it's just what you can read on lots of boards - a report of play. Except it's a report of playing in Tekumel that is entertaining and will likely inspire a GM as (per its description) it's about some "background, life around you" intensive sessions.

It's also hilarious at times. For though this is Tekumel, the high art of RPGs, these are also clearly "gamers", and very creative ones.

I only don't give a 5 because it's the only one and you so want to learn more of these character's lives and fates!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Notes from the Thursday Night Group
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Demonic Powers
by Noah S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/08/2013 22:46:51

A list of compelling and sometimes horrible adjectives, suitable for stage-dressing any document or frabulancerie you might make, kill, or illumniate

Hey, it's loosely connected to the Most Horrible Gaming Book Ever Made, so you could do worse than to get your awfulness revved up this way.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Demonic Powers
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Empire of the Petal Throne (Original Manuscript)
by Thomas L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/02/2013 13:46:25

I found this old classic by chance and quite enjoyed it. One of our hobby's handful of great feats of world building, though less known these days.

In contrast with some reviewers, however, I found the delivered interleaved format awkward on my Mac, and would have preferred to have the scans and the typed-out rules in separate pdfs. Any chance to add these to an update (that way everyone is happy)?



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Empire of the Petal Throne (Original Manuscript)
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Empire of the Petal Throne (Original Manuscript)
by Adrian S. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/20/2012 01:01:01

Empire of the Petal Throne is a manuscript which anyone interested in old-school gaming, or simply has a desire to revisit older RPGs must have. The fact that this has been able to be replicated (after an original print run of only fifty confidential copies) is fantastic.

Tekumel (the world of EotPT), is clearly a product inspired by the sources of its’ time. On the surface, this seems like a foolish statement; until you use it as a mental guide when reading the manuscript. Tekumel is the result of a utter collapse of an advanced star-faring society, who used science-fiction level technology to terraform the planet, subdue the native races and trade with interstellar partners. The ‘Time of Darkness’ destroyed this testament to progress and over the next few thousand years, humanity regressed technologically until this knowledge was revered myth . Meanwhile, the oppressed and endangered non-human races rose in number and prominence. Slowly, a new regime was established, with the current dynasty ruling from the Petal Throne for over two thousand years.

The writing style is very straightforward, but the history is not onerous to read. Imagined references presented in-text make the work seem like a monastic document rescued from a faraway time and lends some further tools which the reader can use to aid in immersion.

The rules as presented are inspired by the original version of Dungeons and Dragons, and there is a certain unflinching brutality in the manner of their presentation, which anyone familiar with Gygax’s style of writing will find recognisable. Interestingly, Barker makes comments about the superficiality of the alignment system (a discussion continued today), and includes basic stats, rules for hirelings, encounters per hex on the world map, psychic powers (which are the explanation of wizard and cleric spells) and only three classes (Warrior, Wizard and Priest). The in-built Monster Manual shows how much Barker adhered to an idea of internal consistency, with all of the creatures given either a short history, as well as some ecological information. For most creatures, relationships with other monsters are suggested. These suggestions could then be used by the DM to build multi-layered encounters.

Part Two of the manuscript introduces the idea of the Underworld (i.e. Dungeons) and provides rationale for their existence by urban renewal and the idea of rediscovering buildings and civilisations lost to the ‘Time of Darkness’. Creatures native to the Underworld are also presented here and they do range from the annoying to the truly and imaginatively lethal (there are more of the latter than the former). I’d love to export a lot of these creatures into my D&D game to shake up the players who think they ‘have seen it all’. Most are evocatively named, like the ‘Eater of Swords’, the ‘Demon of Bronze’ and the ‘Serpent-Headed One’. To me, a lot of the flavour text felt like a romp through the classic Howard-esque era of fantasy novels.

The spells are easily recognisable to anyone who has played D&D before, but Barker draws in technological devices known as ‘The Eyes’. These are gems left by a previous age which have innate powers (such as the ‘Excellent Ruby Eye’ which freezes people, or the ‘Eye of Advancing Through Portals’ which opens doors or blasts walls to create doors). In a previous note, the authors warns that any creature slain by an Eye generate no experience points for the party – so they can use these super-items to slay their way across the countryside, but won’t get a mechanical benefit for doing so. The merits of this system could be debated for hours. In total there are thirty-three potential Eyes a PC could lay hands on – another excellent part of the book which could be transported into almost any other system with ease. Other magical items certainly exists and are detailed over the next six pages.

The rest of this book is given to advice on running games, as well as linguistic advice and an in-depth examination of the political structures within which PCs should be expected to operate.

The actual layout is very well done, with the text presented in two concurrent pages. On the left of the document, you’ll see the original yellowed and fading scanned manuscript, on the right, a clean typed version (which has used the same font as the original). I simply resized my screen so that I could only see the clean version. Reading the other was enjoyable (and added to the immersion of this experience), but in some parts the text has become too faded to clearly read, or is smudged. I would imagine that this would be the rationale behind providing a clean copy as well.

In comparison to ‘modern’ games, EotPT may not have a streamlined play style, but this is indicative of the game which inspired it. In my opinion, this is part of its’ charm, and I am heartily glad that this game is now coming to light to be appreciated by a wider audience. The amount of setting information and dense detail which has been included in this manuscript is impressive, and one can tell that Professor Barker had a true passion in the design of this world. The only addition to this game which I would like are some detailed maps, but the book clearly points the reader to the Tekumel website (which I will be dedicating some serious leisure time to investigating soon). The fact that the website exists is great, as we may be seeing more material for this wonderful setting.

This was an excellent nostalgic trip through the type of product which littered my youth and my initial foray into RPGs, and for that alone I am grateful. Beyond that, the manuscript does present a world which is engaging and interesting, and whilst inspired by the original D&D already shows points of divergence. I would relish the opportunity to actually play this game, and firmly believe that anyone with an interest in the ‘old school’ should support Professor Barker and pick up a copy of ‘Empire of the Petal Throne’.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Empire of the Petal Throne (Original Manuscript)
by Billiam B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/26/2012 12:35:54

A rare and ancient artefact! If you have a mental entry-point to the world named "Tekumel" or "EPT" then you may get rather excited about this document which was originally released prior to TSR's 1975 release of this D&D based game. What is delightful about this manuscript is that it is both a facsimile and an e-text book. The odd numbered pages reminded me of the pre-photocopy spirit duplicated worksheets we had in primary school - rendered readable by the digital text on the even pages. This is an artefact from gaming history, so very close to the genesis of the tabletop role-playing game. Dedicated EPT fans will possibly be very charmed by this, the earliest of the editions and will possibly not think twice about the $15 price tag. If you're already a player or fan of EPT then you may want to take a long educated browse through the Original Manuscript; if you're researching a genre or looking for the quintessential old-school gaming experience, but are still very new to EPT, then you're probably better off downloading the TSR1975 rulebook and maps first. :) -Billiam B. http://bit.ly/rpgblog



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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