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Tekumel Thursday 1: Setting Up Your Campaign

Setting Up Your Tekumel Campaign

Having played Tékumel for a very long time with Prof. Barker, I didn’t anticipate some of the choices I would be faced with when running my own Tékumel campaign. I think a lot of Tékumel fans attempting to start a campaign try to encompass all – ALL – of the available Tékumel material, gasp for air, and then collapse.  This is entirely understandable — and avoidable.

I have been running my Tékumel campaign now for just over five years, slowly and patiently building up a group of players, who are as enthusiastic about the world as they were when they started.  I did this by making a small number of decisions about the fundamental aspects of Tékumel, before I began the game.  My blog posts about this are intended to be something of a guide to How I Did It, and how you can do it, too.

Let’s start with one of the most basic questions to ask: which Tékumel did I want to run?  Did I want to start my campaign sometime around 2375 A.S. or later, during the reign of the Emperor Mirusiya?  Or did I want to start somewhere – somewhen else?  And what did Prof. Barker have to say about all of this?  His opinion on the subject is quite clear, and it’s worth quoting here:

“There is no need for ‘your’ Tékumel to be identical with ‘my’ Tékumel. 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…. I can indeed provide further material… – but we cannot keep your Tékumel from drifting away from mine. This is as it should be. You have just bought MY Tékumel. Now make it YOUR Tékumel.” (The Tékumel Sourcebook)

I knew that Prof. Barker had already developed a LOT of Tékumel history and background before he invited players from the Twin Cities gaming community to sit down and experience the world, back in 1974—or 2354 A.S., as understood on the Tsolyani calendar.  I also knew that those first sessions of the game were the classic “fresh off the boat” scenario, where the players’ ignorance of the world was a mirror for their characters’ ignorance of the Empire of the Petal Throne.  I also knew that those initial adventures were a chance for the player-characters to leave their mark on the world of Tékumel, and they readily attempted to do so—sometimes with very unexpected results.  An entire campaign history emerged from gameplay, with tantalizing hints being made available through “Dispatches to the Imperium.”

What did this mean for my campaign?  Simple—I decided I would take the setting frame as presented in the original Empire of the Petal Throne and start there, in 2354 A.S.  This meant that the sweep of events presented in Dispatches to the Imperium, the storylines of The Man of Gold and Flamesong and the other novels, all of that became possible, or rather, potential.  Given the permission provided by Prof. Barker, I went ahead and began imagining the future history of my Tékumel, without having to worry about “was I getting it right?” I was “getting it right”—for my own game—and that was what mattered.