Welcome to The Hall of Blue Illumination, the podcast dedicated to the world of M.A.R. Barker’s Tékumel. In this episode, our hosts discuss various media and other sundry things belonging to our world that for them, evoke aspects of Tékumel. Sit back and enjoy as they move from 1930’s newsreels, to the DMV, through pyramid nomenclature, and discuss a scene from one of the greatest films to ever grace the silver screen —
The Wizard of Oz Big Trouble In Little China.
[00:00:45] Our topic today: things that are resonant with the world of Tékumel.
[00:01:22] Victor begins with Temples of India, a newsreel from 1938.
[00:03:40] Victor also notes the scene in MGM’s Wizard of Oz (1939) where the Witch’s guardsmen and flying monkeys remind him of Tékumelani armies.
[00:04:47] When you’re looking for inspiration for Tékumel, there is a lot of material you won’t deliberately go to. You can find inspiration in the unlikeliest of places.
[00:05:55] Looking to your own sources and inspiration is how you develop your own Tékumel.
[00:06:32] Each of us has our own understanding of Tékumel. Some things that are resonant to one person won’t be resonant to another.
[00:07:34] Tékumel is a broad and deep setting, and everyone focuses on different aspects. James mentions architecture as one of the things that you might focus on.
[00:09:20] James cites a scene from Big Trouble In Little China.
[00:10:45] Scott’s mention of the DMV leads into a discussion of that most prevalent of Tsolyáni institutions, bureaucracy.
[00:14:22] Tsolyáni markets are more akin to our farmers’ markets than a modern grocery store.
[00:15:40] Sometimes people get lost in the distinction between “game” and “real” Tékumel. The society of “real” Tékumel is much more traditional. When you play Tékumel, you are taking on the role of someone who is different from most of the regular people going on with their lives. (See HoBI Ep. 13)
[00:17:12] Scott’s Dungeon Crawl Classics/EPT mashup. His player characters were peasants who had been gathered up by the priests of Hrü’ü for a ritual.
[00:18:00] The real world has its own resonances. The Mesoamerican pyramids are similar to Mesopotamian ziggurats. A discussion of architectural taxonomy ensues. [GPD: IMHO, “ziggurat” — from the Akkadian ziqqurat — should probably refer exclusively to Mesopotamian structures. “Pyramid” is derived from the Greek word for the geometric shape, and thus a better catchall. Scott is right, the vast majority of Mesoamerican pyramids are step-pyramids.]
[00:19:06] [GPD: Thanks guys!]
[00:19:41] Don’t just swap out the temples and monuments of the real world for the temples of Tékumel, but as a composite, together all of them inform how you should view Tékumelani architecture.
[00:21:58] How does chlén hide operate? What does it look like? How does it feel?
[00:22:51] James mentions the photographs of colonial soldiers at Queen Victoria’s Jubilee, and how they remind him of the make-up of the Five Empires’ various legions.
[00:25:40] Victor’s Tékumel group is underway. He’s found is that it doesn’t hurt to have descriptions of things written up beforehand. Tékumel is different enough that you need to remind players precisely how different it is.
[00:26:38] Victor gives us an anecdote about a new player in his Tékumel campaign. This player had brought with him many assumptions based on other fantasy games. His character hailed from Milumanayá and made the mistake of mouthing off to a couple of guards in Jakálla. Luckily, the other PCs were there to save/correct him.
[00:28:29] However, as James points out, the Milumanayáni don’t exactly share the Tsolyáni’s respect for social hierarchy. Perhaps our benevolent God-Emperor has a plan to instruct that poor northern folk in the proper organization of civilized society?
[00:29:40] “Proud parent moments.” The best moment in a Tékumel campaign is when players instruct other players on the correct way to interact with Tékumel. For instance, a disquisition on impalement stakes.
[00:30:47] James gives an example of one of these moments: when his players were confronted with the societies of Yán Kór and Salarvyá, their shock and horror at the habits of these foreigners.
[00:32:07] It’s fun to watch players’ characters take on Tsolyáni cultural characteristics. It shows that they’re really entering into the world.
[00:32:52] Scott notes that only the rules of polite society prevent the cultures of the Five Empires from giving into their disposition towards xenophobia. Should these cultures forget their manners, ethnic cleansing would be a likely outcome.
[00:33:24] One of the resonance issues to think about — to the Jakállani, the culture of another Tsolyáni city like Sokátis is different, even though both cities belong to the empire. Sokátis, in part due to its proximity to Salarvyá, has a distinct culture. Victor draws a parallel between traveling from Vienna to Istanbul, and the gradations of cultures you would encounter between.
[00:35:24] Victor recalls a quotation verbatim, but not the author. (See the note at 00:38:34)
[00:36:15] The genius of Engsvanyáli-descended cultures is the structure of noble and ignoble actions, and how that colors everything. James cites the Concordant, that keeps followers of the temples of Stability and Change from attempting to annihilate one another outright.
[00:38:34] James thinks Victor’s quotation at 00:35:24 was from Churchill. [GPD: And the verdict is….Churchill? At least it’s popularly attributed to him. See the discussion here.]
[00:39:43] Scott finds the winged monkeys evocative of the Garden of Weeping Snows. Lo Pan reminds James of Nyélmu, the wizard imprisoned in that location.
[00:40:47] Victor references the One Thousand and One Nights as a possible source of inspiration.
[00:42:16] The technology of the ancients feels particularly alien, and not very resonant with anything.
[00:42:35] Victor references the Latter Times, the period after Tékumel entered the pocket dimension, but before the rise of Llyán and Tsámra. Those guys were mad as hatters, and they did things that seem bizarre to peoples of other times and places.
Hosts: Scott Kellogg, James Maliszewski, and Victor J. Raymond.
Tékumel Products Referenced:
Empire of the Petal Throne is the original Tékumel sourcebook and rules set. It was first published by TSR in 1975. It can be purchased as a print-on-demand book, or as a PDF from RPGNow.
Speaking of Nyélmu, check out the art of Zhu Bajie. Zhu has produced art for James’s Tékumel fanzine, The Excellent Travelling Volume, and has created a fantastic illustration of Nyélmu among other things.
Temples of India was a short newsreel produced by Jack Cardiff in 1938. It is available on YouTube.
The Wizard of Oz is a 1939 musical film produced by MGM.
Big Trouble In Little China is a 1986 film that blends aspects of fantasy, westerns and martial arts. It is a cult classic, and you should watch it.
Dungeon Crawl Classics started out as a series of OGL modules constructed with the rules of 3.5 D&D in mind. Its publisher, Goodman Games, has expanded its line to include a core rulebook, which is an attempt at a “streamlined version” of 3rd Edition D&D. DCC books attempt to replicate the look and feel of early 1st Edition D&D material.
The Misha Glenny book referenced by Victor is titled The Balkans: Nationalism, War & the Great Powers, 1804-1999.