The Garden of Weeping Snows at Gary Con

Adventuring in the Jakallan Underworld at Gary Con

The Metamorphosis: Alpha game ended with Alpha, the AI in charge of the station, doing in the entire party because we had decided that the alien menace was, well, too menacing.  I was able to get Jim Ward to sign my character sheet, which was very gracious on his part.  However, it was too late to start another game, so I retreated to my hotel room and ordered in pizza.

The next morning, I got breakfast in Lake Geneva – there were several cafes and restaurants doing what seemed like a land office business.  I got back to the convention fairly quickly, and went in search of other Tekumel fans.  I was able to talk to Jeff Dee for awhile, showing him the Tekumel materials I had brought with me – he was sufficiently fascinated to take time away from his V&V game to chat.  He encouraged me to go to North Texas Gaming Con in early June; I am hoping to go.

By noon, I had a number of players assembled and we went off in search of an open table.  The Tekumel maps are a quick draw for potential players and kibitzers, so I quickly set up the materials and began the game.  The objective was simple: take a letter from Prince Rereshqala to the Undying Wizard Nyelmu, ensconced deep under the city of Jakalla in the Garden of the Weeping Snows.  This was really an excuse to get into the nitty-gritty of the third level of the Jakallan Underworld, using Empire of the Petal Throne (and some house rules).  Within about 20 minutes, characters were generated and we were off.

Running EPT is not hard; the mechanics are not that different from Original D&D, and much better explained.  But the background for Tekumel is often daunting for players and referees alike.  To make things more complicated, the Jakallan Underworld as originally written by Prof. Barker is very much like a D&D “dungeon” – very “old school” and very much an abbreviated version of the vast depths I’ve explored only tiny sections of as a player in Prof. Barker’s Thursday Night Group.  It’s taken me several years to appreciate just how much of the “actual” Jakallan underworld Prof. Barker crammed onto several large sheets of graph paper.  So when I run a game, I work very hard to convey as much Tekumel “flavor” as I can in each gaming session – and I think in this case I succeeded:

“Fascinating!  You can run Empire of the Petal Throne and you don’t have to be M.A.R. Barker…” said one of my players, after experiencing some of the game.

You don’t have to be Prof. Barker to run Tekumel.  What people get hung up on is making their game as identical as possible to Prof. Barker’s game and that’s a mistake.  There’s more than enough material in the original EPT rules to make a campaign work, and if you add more material from other sources, it becomes even easier.  Don’t be afraid of creating another “branch on the Tree of Time,” as Prof. Barker would say.

In the end, the characters survived their trip through the Underworld, eventually being granted an audience with Nyelmu – who promptly opened a Nexus Point and sent them through.  (The outcome of that will be determined at the next Gary Con.)  Allan Grohe was kind enough to stop by and take a couple of pictures (see above).  After the game was brought to its exciting close, I packed up my gear and drove home to Madison – happy and tired, all at the same time.