FAQ: Is there an “official” Tekumel roleplaying game?
Is there an “official” Tekumel roleplaying game?
Over the past forty years, fans of Tékumel have played roleplaying games written by Prof. Barker and devised their own. When last we checked, there were over a dozen Tékumel roleplaying games either written or in development, including everything from original Empire of the Petal Throne to Savage Worlds Tékumel. Professor Barker himself wrote Empire of the Petal Throne and Swords & Glory, and co-wrote Gardasiyal and Tékumel: Empire of the Petal Throne. All of these games represent different approaches to gaming Tékumel, and are distinct from the background setting. Prof. Barker said as much in The Dragon #9:
As I have said elsewhere, we must at once distinguish between “real” Tékumel — the fantasy world — and “game” Tékumel — the abstracted, simplified, and somewhat altered version which results from playing Empire of the Petal Throne. There are many differences — things which become overemphasized in the game, things which were peripheral and unimportant to the game while being of value to the people of Tékumel, etc., etc.
The best way to think about this is as follows: Tékumel is a created world, not unlike Tolkien’s Middle-Earth, with languages, stories, myths and legends. It is best understood as a setting for games, rather than any one single game.
But how do I resolve differences between different rules sets?
That task is best resolved by you for use in your own game. The Foundation takes the position that the source material written by Prof. Barker is not tied to any one game. Thus, the rules that appear in Tekumel: Empire of the Petal Throne published in 2005 are not necessarily “better” or “more accurate” than those found in original Empire of the Petal Throne published thirty years prior. They are simply different expressions of the world in game terms. Again, Prof. Barker said it best in The Dragon #4:
For example, two referees might grant the same fief to different players; one referee might initiate an Empire-wide rebellion; another might begin the Yan Koryani invasion; and still another might just allow the dreaded Black Ssu to run every human off the planet!…Be all this as may be, the problems of running a centralized campaign information centre are severe, and the easiest solution would be to declare all campaigns as equally valid “parallel universes.” It would then be interesting to publish reports on developments in several of these campaigns. It would be fascinating to compare various referees’ and players’ handling of the problems and issues described in the first sections of the Empire of the Petal Throne rulebook. This game really belongs to the referees and the players; it can be played at levels ranging from simple adventuring all the way up to involved socio-economic-military intrigues.
Therefore, you should do what you want in your own game – make use of the material you like, and do not worry about whether or not you are “doing it right.”