advice · campaigns · EPT · Refereeing · Tekumel

Tékumel Thursday 6: What About All Those Dispatches?

Starting in The Strategic Review, Vol. II, No. 2, published in April 1976, reports of what was happening in Prof. Barker’s campaign began to appear.  These were written in the form of dispatches sent through the Imperial bureaucracy, possibly requiring some sort of action – thus giving readers a window into the World of Tekumel.  Aside from some incidental stories written by Gary Gygax or Dave Arneson, nothing like this had been done for Greyhawk or Blackmoor.  All of this predates similar sorts of things, including the Travellers’ News Service reports in the Journal of the Travellers Aid Society from GDW, and later Mongoose.

“A number of players and referees of the Empire of the Petal Throne have requested further information and news of happenings within the Glorious Empire. It would be impractical to try to supply this information piecemeal to each person individually, but a brief series of extracts from Imperial dispatches to the Emperor in Avanthar may serve. There are no newspapers or other public media in the Empire, and those priests and nobles who would be informed must hire scribes to copy the public portions of the reports sent in to Avanthar by the Four Palaces, by certain temples, and by the Omnipotent Azure Legion. These documents are gathered together at the end of each month and made into another volume of the “Korunkoi hiGardasisayal Koluman hiTirikeludalidalisa” (the Book of Mighty Imperial Deeds of the Great and Glorious Petal Throne). Inscribed upon leaves of gold, this book is kept in the Hall of Blue Illumination in the Chancery at Avanthar, where those who are interested may see it upon application to the Provost, Lord Chaymira hiSsanmirin. Not all items would be of interest to those just learning about Tsolyanu, of course, since the Book contains tax reports, priestly enumerations, trade statements, and a thousand other types of administrative information, all neatly collated and indexed by the Lord Provost’s myriad slaves. What follows, thus, is but a culling of individual news items from here and there. Naturally, much of this information is from the public records, but a little has been obtained from the “Inner Book,” which is secret and which is submitted to the Petal Throne for the Emperor’s own scrutiny. Each item begins with a complex formula of praise and respect for the Emperor which need not be repeated here. Readers with more delicate sensibilities will forgive this absence of proper protocol.”

“To The Everlasting Glory of the Petal Throne”, The Strategic Review, Vol. 2, No. 2, April 1976

What made these dispatches more interesting than just news reports were the inclusion of secret dispatches and sometimes secret responses.  This added considerable value to those dispatches, providing even more of a “behind the scenes” view of Prof. Barker’s campaign. Because they were written from an in-setting perspective, they avoided some of the narrative problems of player-reported dungeon adventures, e.g. “After we killed the orcs, we looked for secret doors.  Finding one in the south corner of the chamber….”

The dispatches appeared in the following order:

  • “To The Everlasting Glory of the Petal Throne”, The Strategic Review, Vol. II, No. 2, April 1976, pp. 20-22
  • “Reports Submitted to the Petal Throne”, The Dragon, Vol. I, No. 4, December 1976, pp. 4-8
  • “Dispatches in the Imperium”, The Tekumel Journal #2, 1978. 

[Dispatches in later Tekumel publications will be discussed in another post] 

What I want to do is to go back and look at the dispatches as published, and discuss what the adventures involved, given the material provided.  (While it is the case that more details might be known about some of these adventures, those are not necessary for this purpose.) My intention here is to turn these into adventure seeds for your own Tekumel campaigns, with some discussion of the various issues involved and what they mean for running Tekumel.