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 return to their walking tour of Jakálla, a popular segment with listeners. But first, they discuss whether or not “Prof. Barker is always right” and how they approach what at first might seem as inconsistencies within the Tékumel corpus.
[00:00:57] Is Prof. Barker always right? James begins by noting that Tékumel was developed over several decades in various places, and that there are inconsistencies. He likes to try to reconcile these. Rather than jumping to the conclusion that Prof. Barker forgot something, or changed his mind, it’s a valid exercise to assume that he knew what he was talking about.
[00:03:36] Tékumel has a lot of detail to it, and sometimes things aren’t what they first appear to be. Victor gives us an example. The Clan of the Sweet Singers of Nakomé has a curious name. Early on, Prof. Barker described it as being allied with the temples of Vimúlha and Chiténg. But later on, he mentions that its connected to the temples of Hrü’ǘ and Wurú. One of the ways that Prof. Barker squared this, he said that the clan’s hierarchy is aligned with Vimúlha and Chiténg while the lower-status members worship Hrü’ǘ and Wurú.
[00:06:10] James is trying to come up with examples of where inconsistences aren’t canonically resolved. Victor has another example, the City of Hlíkku. The Mad Ones are said to worship a god, and there are allusions to several deities in the text, but it’s never pinned down. Ksamandúish the Traveller (in “Gods of Yán Kór”) claims that their god is the One Other. But Ksamandúish isn’t exactly trustworthy in some respects.
[00:09:01] Scott supplies an example. In his less enlightened days, Scott dismissed EPT as baroque, but he’s found that EPT is fun to play as is. EPT has a lot of depth, that you might not spot for several readings.
[00:12:15] Another idea is how the observer colors the material itself. There are aspects of Tékumel, like how a society survives without horses, that are often approached from a Western-centric point-of-view. The same thing with extensive underworlds. All of these “quasi-scientific” questions give you an opportunity to try to make sense of it.
[00:14:35] James has considered this in the context of the ancient books that are found in Tékumel. How have they held up so long? Another one is how all of the ancient technologies still work after millennia.
[00:17:15] Walking Tour of Jakálla, Part 3. Our hosts continue their survey of the city of Jakálla, beginning at the Bridge of the Splendour of the Gods (Map of Jakálla, 62).
[00:17:53] One of the things about crossing the bridge, is that it passes over the Eqúnoyal River which flows past the older bridges of the city, under the Bridge of the Splendour of the Gods, and then out of Jakálla past the village of Kygáshtene. There’s a lot of traffic that’s going to be headed upstream.
[00:18:57] As we cross the Bridge, we encounter the Temple of Vimúlha (Map, 10) and the Temple of Chegárra (Map, 25). The Palace of War (Map, 4) is located in the foreigner’s quarter, which is interesting.
[00:20:09] The boulevard here has stele, statuary, and monumental triumph arches. It extends all the way to the Hirilákte Arena. In short succession, you encounter the Temples of Thúmis (Map, 7), Ksárul (Map, 8), Vimúhla (Map, 10) and Dlamélish (Map, 11). All of these temples have massive pyramidal bases, on which they’re built. The temple of Sárku (Map, 9) and the Palace of Foreign Lands follow (Map,3).
[00:22:06] The Palace of Foreign Lands and the Communal Clan Common House (Map,45) flank the entrance of the Bridge of Victory of the Emperor (Map, 63), which ends at the Governor’s Palace (Map, 1).
[00:22:24] From the Sábke Road all the way here, the temples are arranged in such a way to demonstrate their prominence in the society of Jakálla. The Governor’s Palace is heavily fortified, and probably on an island in the middle of the river. There’s also a massive keep that seems to span from the island to the mainland.
[00:24:06] What is the Communal Clan Common House? Presumably it’s where the clans do business with one another. It shows up a couple of different places in EPT. For instance, in EPT (§421, p. 19) learning skills require you to find a relevant clan chief, who will provide a teacher for a certain number of káitars based on the skill. It also seems to be mentioned in the section on hiring NPCs (§10.10, p. 39). This helps to centralize where services can be found (so the PCs, for one, know where to look for them).
[00:28:20] Have players actually used the map to explore Jakálla? James says it’s only occurred for him in the Foreigner’s Quarter in fresh-of-the-boat campaigns where players’ movements are more limited, and so they want to explore every bit of the little area allowed to them.
[00:29:20] Victor gives us an anecdote about Bill Huggins, an early player in Prof. Barker’s campaign who bought a palatial building in Jakálla, with an entrance to the underworld (through a sewer grate) just down the street.
[00:30:20] EPT talks about the purchase and construction of buildings (EPT §2400, p. 94). Some of this is translating “the domain game” from the early days of D&D into Tékumel.
[00:32:40] One of the things that records of Prof. Barker’s campaign makes clear is that early players would become imperial fief-holders. This is in addition to taking on religious authority in the temples.
[00:34:06] If someone wanted to flesh out their own city, they could use this map as a guide. Things very from place to place, for instance if you’re in the central empire, the Palace of Foreign Lands will be smaller because foreign traffic is reduced there. Sometimes the palaces might be combined in the same building.
[00:35:37] Past the Bridge of Victory, the boulevard turns and goes toward the Hirilákte Arenas (Map, 46). But before it gets there, passes by the Barracks of the Prison Guards (Map, 43) and the Siridlánu Slave Market (Map, 44).
[00:36:30] Are gladiators always freeman? Well, you have to be careful about arming slaves. If you look at the non-player characters section of EPT (§1000, p. 38), you’ll find “Trainable Man-at-Arms” and priests and magic-users listed under “slaves” for purchase.
[00:38:00] Is there a connection between the Barracks of the Prison Guards, the Slave Market, and the Hirilákte Arena? If so, it’s not explicitly stated. EPT discusses the Hirilákte Arena in §800. If you wanted to purchase a slave to fight for you in the Arena, you’d probably have to offer to manumit them.
[00:41:30] It’s worth noting that if you compare the two harbors, Músa Jakálla harbor (the civilian harbor) is relatively open, while Pála Jakálla harbor (the military harbor) is fortified.
[00:42:52] Two interesting locations near the military harbor are the Armoury and Marine Outfitting Workshop of Grekka the Yán Koryáni (Map, 57) and the Armoury and Smithy of Ghrý of the Vermilion Helm (Map, 58). These are right on the water, and they’re big enough that they probably can ship items.
[00:44:00] The Barracks of the Squadrons of Tlanéno the Steersman (Map, 42) speaks to the fact that Jakálla has probably grown from east to west. Some of this has to do with dtlána. The city has evolved over time, and the most recent constructions are those where the foreigner’s quarter is built.
[00:45:37] Victor states that he understands that PCs in the early games would put themselves in the Hirilákte Arena as a way to advance, both financially and experience-wise, as well as to gain notoriety. This is actually provided as a mission in EPT (§1110, p. 40).
[00:47:52] The Barracks of the City Guard (Map, 41) is also noteworthy. There are barracks all over the city, but these are specifically for the “city guard.”
[00:50:00] Locations 38 and 39 are two of the city’s prisons, one for debtors, and another for crimes against the Imperium. This is a lot of prisons for a society that has a reputation for impaling malefactors. James suggests that this shows that Tsolyáni justice isn’t as draconian as EPT would have you believe. Victor agrees. “Impalement” was a way to warn newcomers to be careful and not break the law or consort with criminal individuals.
[00:52:35] It’s also there to encourage PCs to find places in Tsolyáni society. In Victor’s campaign, his PCs bribed their way out of the foreigner’s quarter and went to the temples they were aligned with, and used their connections to become priests in Tsolyáni society. Only later did they find themselves becoming members of clans.
Hosts: Scott Kellogg, James Maliszewski, and Victor J. Raymond.
Tékumel Products Referenced:
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.
“The Blue Room” was a Tékumel-focused ftp site formerly hosted by Chris Davis. It saw regular contributions from Professor Barker. An archive of this material is available here. If you’re looking for information on a specific topic, search the document found here to find the appropriate volume(s), and then access them here. [GPD: Unlike the Temple of Ksárul, my methods are neither secret, nor jealously guarded.]
“The Almighty Gods of Yán Kór” is an article written by Prof. Barker. It discusses the beliefs of the Yán Kòryáni. It can be purchased 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.