The Tékumel Foundation

News about the World of Tékumel® – the creation of Prof. M.A.R. Barker

Archive for the month “December, 2015”

A Special 20th-Anniversary Reading

Happy Holidays, everyone! It’s the 20th anniversary of the holiday favorite, “Twas the Night Before Chitlásha,” and to celebrate the Tékumel Foundation has brought in a special guest to read you this holiday classic. Jump to the end of the poem to listen!

Twas The Night Before Chitlásha

by Bob Alberti

©1995 Bob Alberti, Jr. with apologies to Clement Clarke Moore, M. A. R. Barker, Santa Claus, and most of Western Civilization.

Twas the Night before Chitlásha and all through the clan
Not a person was stirring, neither Pé Chói nor Man.
The slaves were all locked in their stables with care
For I didn’t wish any more trouble down there.

The children were nestled all snug on their mats,
With nightmares of Ssúganar tormenting the brats.
And I hung the méshqu “Don’t disturb, I relax”,
While my wives settled down for a night on their backs.

When out in the courtyard there arose such a clatter
I sprang to my feet to see what was the matter.
Leaping over Third Wife, cross the room did I dash
Threw open the shutters and saw a great flash.

The moons on the breasts of the demon Quyó
Gave a red-and-green luster to her statue below,
When what to my wondering eyes should appear
But a shining blue oval that filled me with fear.

Then out leapt a creature with a nose glowing red
And I feared in a moment I soon would be dead.
More rapid than Hláka these monsters they came
As one ’round the back called out their true names;

“Now DASHER! now DANCER, now PRANCER and VIXEN!
On COMET! on CUPID! on, DONDER and BLITZEN!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”

As leaves which before a wild hurricane fly
When they meet with an obstacle mount to the sky
So up to the rooftop the first creature flew
With eight more behind it, and a palanquin too.

And then in a twinkling I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each demon-hoof.
As I entered the room and was looking around
Down the chimney a humanoid came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur from his head to his foot
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
From the brick fireplace that appeared at his back
He withdrew an enormous red tarpaulin sack

His eyes, how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a berry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow
And my wives and I feared there was nowhere to go.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke seemed to come from burning a leaf.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
Which shook when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.

He was chubby and plump, like a demonic peasant,
And the smile I gave him was carefully pleasant.
But the wink of his eye and the twist of his head
Seemed like a spell-gesture, and filled me with dread.

He spoke not a word for the spell he would work
And had just turned around when he stopped with a jerk.
A finger was laid to one side of his nose
When he started to glow a bright shade of rose.

Third Wife’s Ruby Eye also captured the sleigh
You can see them in Bey Su where they’re on display.
A priest closed the nexus with a ritual spell
But I left the brick fireplace. Why not? It works well.

I rewarded Third Wife with thesun and gold
And named her First Wife though just sixteen years old.
Therefore she exclaimed during our evening rites
“HAPPY CHITLÁSHA TO ALL, AND TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT!”

Please consider making a non-tax-deductible donation (we’re working on the nonprofit paperwork!) to The Tékumel Foundation.

You can roleplay in Tékumel with the rules found in Béthorm by Jeff Dee available at bethorm.com.

If you enjoy “The Night Before Chitlásha” and you’re in the Twin Cities, come see a new comedy written by Bob Alberti with director Susanne Becker, “Hard Wired,” opening January 7th at the Bryant Lake Bowl.

And Bob Alberti performs adult insult comedy with Vilification Tennis at 10 pm on Saturday Night, December 26th, also at the Bryant Lake Bowl.

Without further ado, here is your special reading of

Twas The Night Before Chitlásha

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Conlangery #115: Tsolyáni

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Earlier in December, the podcast of constructed languages, Conlangery #115, was released.  A “conlang” is a constructed language, such as Elvish, Klingon or Esperanto.  This particular episode focused on the Tsolyáni language.  Victor Raymond, as the chair of the Tékumel Foundation, was the featured guest.  The podcast goes into the history of Tsolyáni and of Prof. Barker, and the background of Empire of the Petal Throne and the world of Tékumel.  The hosts, George Corley and William Annis, discussed the unique nature of Tsolyáni as a constructed language, its linguistic character, and how Tsolyáni has been used in a gaming context.  It’s definitely worth a listen!

For more information about Conlangery, check out the podcast website: http://conlangery.com/ as well as the Conlangery Facebook Group: http://www.facebook.com/conlangery/ and http://www.facebook.com/groups/Conlang/

News from Sokátis – Part Two

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[The Foundation has invited James Maliszewski to describe his on-going Empire of the Petal Throne campaign, set in the city of Sokátis.  This is the second part of a two-part entry.]

Over the course of months of weekly sessions, the player characters ventured beyond Sokátis, following in the footsteps of a revered clan elder who had been something of a ne’er-do-well in his youth. Their travels took them to Rü on the Salarvyáni border (and beneath it), where they became entangled in local politics, and to the Salarvyáni city of Khúm, where they tangled with a group of Yán Koryáni exiles seemingly in the employ of a Thirreqúmmu prince. More recently, an ill-timed use of an untested Eye of Departing in Safety obtained earlier in the campaign has transported the characters somewhere cold and even farther from home than Salarvyá. Such are the hazards of adventure!

What I have found most delightful to watch is the way in which the players, including those with little previous experience of Tékumel, have quickly become acclimated to the setting. In one notable example, the characters had been invited to dinner with a former high priestess of Avánthe in Rü. The players spent some time thinking about how their characters would dress for the occasions. What impressed me about this was the players considered this topic worthy of discussion at all. This was proof to me that, for all of Tékumel’s oft-mentioned complexity, newcomers could indeed get into the spirit of the setting.

I think it worth noting that, as the referee, I have not found my duties unduly onerous – certainly no moreso than when I refereed other roleplaying game campaigns. Now, it is true that, after more than two decades as a Tékumel fan, I am no neophyte. At the same time, it is worth noting that, for several months, the characters were based in Salarvyá, about which Professor Barker wrote very little. For that reason, I often had to come up with answers to some of the questions that arose through play, e.g. What are the Salarvyáni names of Pavár’s gods?

Rather than fret about how little I knew about Salarvyá, I decided early in the campaign to answer questions only as they arose. My initial mantra of “start small” evolved into “think small,” which is to say, “think only about matters at hand.” There was no need to know everything about Salarvyá in advance. Instead, I drew on what I already knew to come up with answers to questions that emerged through play. I felt no pressure, no stress, to “do it right.” Moreover, it is my firm belief that, so long as the players and referee are enjoying themselves in Tékumel, they are doing “right.”

My campaign will soon reach seven months of weekly sessions, which is admittedly not long in the annals of Tékumel campaigns. Nevertheless, I am greatly satisfied to have found six players who have not only turned up week after week to play at my virtual table but who have entered into the world of Tékumel and found it very much their liking.

[What’s going on in your Tékumel campaign?  Share your stories with the Foundation – we’re always interested in finding out what people have discovered playing in the world of the Empire of the Petal Throne.]

News from Sokátis

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[The Foundation has invited James Maliszewski to describe his on-going Empire of the Petal Throne campaign, set in the city of Sokátis.  This is the first part of a two-part entry.]

By the time I started roleplaying in late 1979, M.A.R. Barker’s world of Tékumel was already legendary. I regularly heard tales of its “depth” and, more often than not, its “complexity” from the older and more experienced gamers I ran into at the hobby shops and games gatherings of suburban Baltimore.

Consequently, it would take me more than a decade to investigate Tékumel for myself, which I did by subscribing to the Blue Room mailing list and by purchasing the then-new Gardásiyal rules. I also began an email correspondence with Professor Barker – or “Phil,” as he insisted I call him. That correspondence, while irregular, instilled in me an abiding affection for Tékumel that is a driving force behind my launching my fanzine, The Excellent Travelling Volume.

My love of Tékumel is not academic. Though I enjoy lengthy conversations about Tékumel’s mysteries as much as the next fan, I also feel very strongly that Professor Barker’s world is best enjoyed through the medium of roleplaying. This is why I have refereed several different Tékumel campaigns since the 1990s, the most recent of which began in March of this year. This campaign uses the Empire of the Petal Throne rules, as have the last couple of campaigns I have run. I have come to appreciate the elegant simplicity of the original 1975 rules and have found them especially accessible to newcomers to Tékumel, of whom I often have several in any campaign I referee, including my current one.

This campaign is nominally based in the city of Sokátis, with all the characters being members of the local House of Worms clan. As its name suggests, the clan is devoted to Sárku and his Cohort Durritlámish. In terms of their direct experience with Tékumel (or Empire of the Petal Throne), the players are a mixed group. Some of them were complete neophytes, some knew something of Tékumel, and some were old hands, with a sophisticated understanding of the setting. Because I chose to run this campaign via the Hangouts feature of Google Plus, the players were as diverse geographically as they were in experience. I have players located across North America, as well as in the United Kingdom and continental Europe.

Because of their differences in experience with Tékumel, I decided early on that I would “start small” with the campaign. Initially, the player characters acted as agents of their clanmaster, undertaking errands and investigations on his behalf within Sokátis. This allowed me to introduce the neophytes to foundational elements of Tsolyáni society – the clans and the temples, for example – in a straightforward, easy to understand way. They learned by doing and, after only a few sessions, were familiar enough with the workings of their clan, temples, and city that they were ready for more.

[Part Two will appear next week.]

 

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