Dave Arneson and Tekumel

I was asked on another forum to provide some thoughts about Dave Arneson and his participation in Prof. M.A.R. Barker’s world of Tekumel. I’ve decided to share those here, as well:

Dave played irregularly with the Thursday Night Group, sometimes for a longer stretch when he lived in the Twin Cities, then for the occasional visit when he was in the Bay Area or Florida. Dave’s primary character, Captain Harchar, was clearly one of those “original EPT” characters in Tekumel. Harchar was a weird mix of “D&D character” and “upstanding member of the Blazoned Sail clan.” I suspect some of this was due to Prof. Barker always keeping in mind that it was Dave at the gaming table, but Dave managed to always act in a “proper Tekumelani” fashion while making it very clear that ol’ Harchar was in it for himself and the gold and nobody else, in about that order. Harchar always had two assistants/bodyguards/helpers with him, Swordslinger and Staffswinger – those were nicknames, but the NPCs were tough and made sure Harchar was unmolested. You might think that Prof. Barker was providing a kind of special assistance to Dave, but such was not the case.

Harchar repeatedly got himself into and out of rather sticky and/or tough situations – up to and including getting his ship transported from the Chanayaga Deeps to Lake Parunal, where the locals had never seen anything larger than their fishing boats and small single-rower galleys before. He set himself up as the incoming governor of Mihallu, and had everybody convinced of this fact, and the actual ruling clique in Ninue ended up working feverishly to discredit him (they eventually succeeded before he reached Mihallu – read some of the related story in Prof. Barker’s novel Flamesong). Eventually Harchar and his ship were returned to the waters off the city of Jakalla.

Dave was also responsible for some of the development of the concept known as the “Tree of Time” in Tekumel, wherein all of the different strands of possibility were represented in a kind of metaphysical conceptualization as a ever-branching (and reconnecting) set of tree branches. He was playing a different character, but I recall quite distinctly how we ended up traversing
the Many Planes looking for things, and Dave’s character (not Harchar this time) finding evidence that signified to him how the Tree was manifest, operated, etc. – it became a kind of religious revelation that Dave’s character shared with others – usually to Dave’s advantage.