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Tékumel Thursday 7: Gary Con XVI

Just got back from Gary Con XVI, so this is about how to run Tékumel convention events and how to attract players for a Tékumel campaign. At Gary Con XVI I ran three different adventures, all based out of the northern Tsolyáni city of Khirgár. Here is the description for the second one:

Deep in the Desert
Word has arrived that a Milumanayáni scout has discovered something glinting at the top of a rocky outcropping, deep in the sands of the desert. A treasure lost to its original owners? Some unknown relic of the past? Hindering your travel are Milumanayáni tribal warriors, the sand worms of the desert, and possibly agents of the Surgéth, the Yán Koryáni spy service.

So what’s this all about? Pretty easy – a Tsolyáni officer from the Palace of Ever-Glorious War wants the party of foreign adventurers to go into the Desert of Sighs and scout around. Specifically they were looking for a strange sighting at the “Fingers of the Hand” near a ruined city deep in the desert. In their first encounter, the party fought off some bandits who were in the pay of Baron Ald, finding some Yán Koryáni coins on the bodies of the bandits. They then traveled to an oasis, where they found some Milumanayáni tribespeople, and convinced the tribe’s headman that they were members of the Surgéth. Using the Yán Koryáni coins, they were provided with a guide to take them further into the desert. Eventually they found the Fingers of the Hand and investigated its secrets more closely.

Using Section 1110 in Empire of the Petal Throne this would be a roll of “21-30: Military officer or general” with a mission of either “11-20 Go upon a quest for a specific (random) object or person” or “41-50 Join in a raiding party to outlying area of Empire (random)” – it is really up to you as the person running the game to decide. For a convention game, I did not use all of the rules in Sections 1120-1125, instead just setting up the possible encounters based on choices the players might make.

Probably the biggest thing to remember when putting together a convention adventure is that even a little Tékumel “spice” is probably more than enough for new players. You want enough to attract new people who want to understand Tékumel better, but not so much as to leave them feeling lost. In this adventure, the players took note of who knew what languages and used that to their advantage, as well as different coinages. One of the pre-generated characters had an Eye which was used quite effectively on the bandits’ leader (and the player invoking the Rule of Cool for using the Eye in an unexpected and novel way!).

The “Fingers of the Hand” was a map done by Dyson Logos, who is a longtime Tékumel fan. I adapted it slightly for this scenario, making a couple of modifications to the map. You can draw your own, too – or even use maps from other non-Tékumel adventures.

The adventure itself involved some desert navigation, with one initial combat, one social encounter, more desert navigation, and then the secret of the Fingers of the Hand itself – a small underworld with some High Technology. The event length was four hours, which was almost enough, but not quite. I will have to “tighten up” what is supposed to happen when I run it next, as another play-test session.

Convention adventures can be a great way of recruiting new players. I ran three Empire of the Petal Throne games at GaryCon XVI. The first one had three players new to Tékumel out of six; the second (shown above) had four new players, and the third and last game had five new players. So twelve players got introduced to Tékumel – that was a decent result! If you were thinking about doing something similar, here are some suggestions:

  • Generate some simple missions for the adventurers ahead of time, using Section 1110.
  • Figure out how many encounters – combat, social, puzzle, etc. – the mission will take. My rule of thumb using Empire of the Petal Throne is one encounter per hour, but that can be adjusted. Write that all down, including the patron who gave them the adventure.
  • Pre-generate the characters for the game, just as you might for a D&D adventure. Explain how the game works, using the adventurers character sheets.
  • Make sure you talk about how Tékumel is different, but do not take too long. (The Egg of the World has a two page Tékumel intro, so feel free to use that when it becomes available later this year.)
  • Do not be afraid to lean into some Tékumel cultural detail, but remember – a little bit can go a long way. Help players out by giving them some details their characters might know.
  • Use the results of the adventure to possibly jump-start your own campaign; you will need to think about the various NPCs that might take an interest in the heroes upon their return.

What other things would help you, if you wanted to start a Tékumel campaign?