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 begin a walking tour of Jakálla, “The City Half as Old as the World.” The standard Empire of the Petal Throne “fresh off the boat” campaign uses Jakálla as the players’ introduction to Tsolyáni culture and society. But what do the player characters see when they enter the harbor? Where do they go? What do Tsolyáni buildings look like? Our hosts answer these questions and more, but first they discuss a new way to spend your hard-earned káitars.
[00:00:59] Tékumel PDFs! Two Tékumel Bundles of Holding are now available. These are a great value, and together they include nearly all of the PDF material available. If you’re new and you’ve been curious about Tékumel, this is a great place to start.
[00:02:00] There are new PDF navigation elements in the EPT PDF and both volumes of Swords & Glory. This makes it much easier to move around and find what you need within these documents.
[00:02:50] Victor had an idea to do a walking tour of Jakálla. Well, here we go. As our hosts have discussed before (HoBI ep. 1), the classic EPT campaign is a “fresh off the boat” scenario that begins in Jakálla (EPT §900, p. 37). This approach uses the city as an introduction to the culture Tsolyánu.
[00:03:05] We have several sources of information for the city of Jakálla (e.g. EPT and Swords & Glory Vol. 1) but there’s a lot that’s left to the imagination.
[00:04:02] Where to start? Prof. Barker indicated that the map of Jakálla is representational, and that certain elements are overstated with respect to size. It’s like a tourist map, and it’s probably not worthwhile making it all “square-up.”
[00:05:14] James observes that most maps of Tèkumeláni cities don’t appear to include a scale. Victor notes that early on, Prof. Barker realized that it was better to be vague about precise measurements.
[00:06:21] Getting a precise scale isn’t as important as knowing what’s going on at a location. It pays not to be too “simulationist.”
[00:06:50] So the player characters arrive by boat. What do they see? It’s actually not talked about very much. The PCs arrive at the civil harbor (Músa Jakálla) on the south side of the city. The military harbor (Pála Jakálla) is on the northern side of the city.
[00:07:33] When you get off the boat, you’re going to encounter the Armoury and Smithy of Ghry of the Vermillion Helm (Map of Jakálla, 58) and the Barracks of the Legion of Giriktéshmu (Map, 27). Immediately past that are The Temple of Hriháyal (Map, 23), The Temple of Chiténg (Map, 24), and The Tower of Bones, a “Prison for Crimes Against the Realm” (Map, 26). This provides quite the introduction to Tsolyáni society.
[00:09:28] Scott finds it difficult to describe Tsolyáni architecture. There are some textual references and visual representations in the published material. An illustration in EPT (p. 70) shows a portion of the walls of the city Yan Koryáni Ke’ér. There’s also some description of Púrdimal and the interior of Avanthár. From these and other descriptions, we can surmise that Tsolyáni buildings have a lot of ornamentation like sculpture and bas reliefs. (GPD: Also, note EPT § 2400, p. 94 “Erecting and Buying Buildings”).
[00:12:15] Both the temples of Dlamélish and Hriháyal are “lower” and more accommodating to worshipers because they’re meant to be houses of pleasure.
[00:12:31] As you can see from the Jakálla map, the Temple of Chiténg is a blocky main building with a courtyard, along with three or four towers and a gate house that funnels worshipers into the courtyard and thence into the temple itself. It’s built like a fortress, with representations of the faith’s victories, etc.
[00:13:28] What’s the population density of the city? It’s busy. There are all kinds of street sellers and temple personnel, as well as non-humans.
[00:13:51] Other things that are worth pointing out are the fortifications along the seaward and the southern sides of the city. Just south of the Temple of Chiténg is a gate house which leads south out of the city.
[00:14:45] How do foreigners get to the foreigner’s quarter? There are persons who station themselves near the docks to “direct” new arrivals to the foreigner’s quarter, for a reasonable price.
[00:15:52] Are there bureaucrats or government representatives who handle the foreigners? Undoubtedly. There are some of the docks that are governmental in nature, and there’s probably a customs house. Someone is probably present to extract various duties and fees, and to make sure a foreigner’s papers are in order. Our hosts give several examples of how this can play out.
[00:19:21] It’s easy to overlook some of these details, but the whole process of coming into the city can be fascinating and set up further adventures.
[00:20:10] There are a couple of fortresses on the islands out in the harbor. There’s also a range of housing and bridges that connect to the legion barracks and to the prison.
[00:21:51] The House of the Pleasant Hour (Map, 77). Prostitution is accepted in Tsolyáni society, in fact, it’s right next to the Palace of the Priesthood (Map, 5). This is an amazing building, which is designed to represent Pavár’s pantheon. Our hosts discuss the massive pool that adorns the Palace of the Priesthoods, and what and whom the players might encounter there.
[00:24:57] The Priestly College of Rerektánu (Map, 50). What is this? It might be one of those places where lay priests are trained. The Source Book mentions that there are places where these individuals are educated. It might also be an arm of one of the priesthoods, but clearly it has some kind of official sanction.
[00:26:17] To the south are houses and shops which surround the temples. These are likely clan houses, although they’re probably not prosperous clan houses because of their location.
[00:27:44] Being located near a wall is probably not estimable. To get to the well-off section of Jakálla, you have to go into the neighborhoods east of the Hirilákte Area (Map, 46) and the Governor’s Palace (Map, 1), past the north bank of the Eqúnoyal River. This is the older part of the city.
[00:28:42] There’s also a lot of foot traffic in the western areas. Passing the Palace of the Priesthood, the players would work their way over to the city’s major boulevard which runs from the Sákbe Road tower into the city.
[00:29:30] We have pretty good descriptions for many of the major temples (Map, 6-25). They’re located where they are because those faiths won their places long ago.
[00:30:52] For a city as old as Jakálla, James is surprised that some of the older faiths with strong connections to the city (like Dlamélish and Ksárul) don’t have even more ancient sites in the better parts of town. There could be older, smaller shrines there, and Victor notes that based on the flow of the rivers, he surmises that the most recent part of the city is the foreigner’s quarter; that the city has grown from northeast to the southwest by filling in the harbor. If you look at the Old Citadel of Ssirandár (Map, 47) it’s across the river from the Governor’s Palace (Map, 1). There are relatively few things mentioned here, indicating that there’s not as much interesting to intrepid PCs.
[00:33:34] Jakálla is a city that’s been around for a very long time. Even prior to Pavár, Dlamélish was a big deal here.
[00:34:17] Entry 51(“The Temple of the Ancient Unnamed One (not in use)” is very suggestive.
[00:34:33] It’s also fascinating how many of these entries are armories. Victor suggests that this shows Prof. Barker’s original conception of Tékumel as a “domain game”; knowing where things like armories, legions and fortresses are located were an important part of this earlier version.
[00:35:30] It’s also not surprising that the foreigner’s quarter has hostels and places where the players can acquire gear and adventure possibilities (Map, 32-37).
[00:35:58] The map also gives you an idea of just how much is being produced for the armies of Tsolyánu.
[00:36:11] The fortress at 49 is large, and should tower over the city and the Sákbe Road. The land may also rise up here, which may be why some of the temples are located nearby. Anyone entering the city this way should encounter the impressive lineup of temples on either side and then the fortress, the river and the Governor’s Palace.
[00:37:29] The village of Kygáshtene. According to Prof. Barker, it’s made up of persons who are of assistance to the city like craftspeople, and people who work with “things that smell.” Also probably some smaller satellites of the main clan houses within the city.
[00:38:52] What’s the yellow structure? It looks like a town square, or maybe it’s the Palace of the Realm for the village. It could also be a temple, but Victor bets it’s the Palace of the Realm given its placement.
[00:39:59] Jakálla’s Palace of the Realm (Map, 2). This covers a humongous space.
[00:40:52] What do city guards in Jakálla look like? They wear a breast and back plate of
chlén hide, and maybe with lappets on their kilts. Their costume is decorated in the azure blue color of the Tsolyáni Imperium. They would have a badge indicating their status as city guards. They would not be as heavily-armed as the legions.
[00:42:30] Each barracks is a living place, and a representation of the legion itself. This is where their banners and trophies are kept and displayed. They’ll also have training and living areas.
[00:43:33] Scott has his nonplayer characters (including the city guards) wear something that indicates their clan. Victor agrees that Tsolyáni would have some indicia to that effect, because they love visual representation. After a newcomer developed some familiarity with the people of Jakálla, they could determine a lot about someone from their adornments.
Hosts: Scott Kellogg, James Maliszewski, and Victor J. Raymond.
Tékumel Products Referenced:
The Tékumel Bundles of Holding are available here. Get ‘em while they’re hot!
The color Map of Jakálla (from the 1975 edition of EPT) is available as a PDF from DriveThruRPG.
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 DriveThruRPG.
Swords & Glory Vol. 1 (a.k.a. the “Source Book”) was first published by Gamescience in 1983. It is a detailed sourcebook for the world of Tékumel. You can purchase it as a print-on-demand book, or as a PDF from DriveThruRPG.