Five Questions with Jeff Dee
As part of the Foundation’s efforts to keep Tékumel fans aware of newsworthy events in the Five Empires, we had a chat with Jeff Dee recently. Here’s what he had to say:
1) So who are you? As impossible as it might sound, not all Tékumel fans know who you are.
I got my start in the games industry at TSR Hobbies in the late 70’s, doing illustrations for early AD&D books and many other game lines that TSR published at the time. But I’ve always been both an artist and a game designer. I co-authored Villains and Vigilantes (V&V), the first complete superhero RPG ever published, in 1979. After that I did a lot of freelance illustration for a wide range of different games, such as MegaTraveller and Space: 1889 from GDW, West End’s Star Wars line, and so on. I eventually wound up in computer games, first as an artist on the Ultima line from Origin, and later as lead designer on the Sims: Castaway Stories. I’m happily back in tabletop RPGs now. Jack Herman and I re-released Villains and Vigilantes, and I also operate my own small publishing company called UNIgames.
2) How did you get interested in Tékumel?
My eldest brother Dave introduced me to D&D shortly after it was first published. We lived just ½ hour south of Lake Geneva, so we made frequent trips to TSR’s Dungeon Hobby Shop to check out all their latest games – including Empire of the Petal Throne when it came out. I was immediately mesmerized by the artwork and the Tékumel setting; EPT was my go-to game during those early years. In fact when Jack Herman and I met in high school, and decided to try to make a superhero RPG, our first experiment involved writing up stats for Spider-Man and the Human Torch for EPT – and making up new rules to handle their powers. Few if any EPT mechanics made it into V&V (a d100 scale with 50 being average for normal humans isn’t very convenient for a superhero game), but Tékumel remains my absolute favorite fantasy RPG setting.
3) What is UNIgames? How did it get started?
My partner, who goes by the name Talzhemir Mrr (and is the co-creator of Furcadia – the world’s longest continuously-running MMO) was looking for a small, powerful RPG ruleset and thought that a 2d10 roll would make a solid foundation. She asked me to do the initial development, and that became the core of our Pocket Universe game system. We formed UNIgames to publish it, along with two game settings for it. Quicksilver is our fantasy RPG which features psionic ‘magic’, light horror, and the metal ‘quicksilver’ which is used to create custom magic items. Teenage Demon Slayers is an RPG inspired by Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Our latest game is Cavemaster – a caveman RPG featuring a Paleolithic game system that uses handfuls of rocks instead of dice.
4) What’s Béthorm?
Béthorm is UNIgames’ upcoming conversion of Swords & Glory and Gardasiyal to the Pocket Universe game system. It’s a tragedy that Professor Barker’s own Tékumel games never received proper support, making it that much more difficult for new players to discover Tékumel. Our goal with Béthorm is to get Tékumel onto a stable platform, which we can keep in print and support with adventures and expansions.
5) What do you plan to do next, as far as Tékumel is concerned?
We’re in negotiations with the Tékumel Foundation to select a region within Tsolyanu that we can develop as a campaign setting. Sourcebooks and adventures set in that region will follow!