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 release of the game then. But 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 on it? Ah, yes, it's 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. Sigh.)
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 to 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.
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