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 EPT’s divine intervention mechanics at length. But first, James and Victor engage in a brief discussion about imperial heirs.
[00:00:35] Children of the known Tsolyáni princes? Victor found a reference in the Sourcebook, in a reference to dueling masters. (Sourcebook, § 1.960, p. 117). At the Threshold of Glory in Jakálla, Viumél hiArkódu tutors the children of Prince Rereshqála.
[00:02:14] James has wondered about the hidden heirs a lot, since this system seems very unwieldly and difficult to maintain in the long-term.
[00:03:13] But the idea of using the trials to make sure that the strongest candidate accedes to the Petal Throne, and that there’s no tradition of primogeniture works just fine.
[00:04:00] Victor notes that according to EPT, the “farming out” of the heirs is a “recent custom.” (EPT §200, p. 13).
[00:05:13] Every few hundred years, there’s a breakdown in imperial succession. Victor notes several.
[00:09:36] In Flamesong a “forgotten” prince from Emperor Hirkáne’s generation is uncovered. [GPD: Spoiler alert? Why haven’t you read Flamesong yet, it’s great!] It’s weird that no one seems to acknowledge Nalukkán after the mere span of a generation, even though he says that he was given troops to put down the rebellion in Fasíltum. [GPD: which occurred in 2340 AS. To save you some time humble listener, with respect to published sources, EPT is set in 2354 AS, and the Sourcebook is set in 2358 AS. Hirkáne dies in 2364 AS, which touches off the succession crisis that occurs in the background of several of the novels.]
[00:11:30] Divine Intervention. This is covered in EPT §2110, p. 91. Victor notes that this was present in early D&D campaigns, but James guesses this is probably the first published mention of the game concept. People don’t appreciate the fact that Prof. Barker pioneered several innovations in gaming concepts with EPT that are still with us today.
[00:16:00] Victor covers the initial paragraphs of this section. James wonders if the restriction of the divine intervention mechanic to player characters might be to prevent players using their hirelings to game the system.
[00:18:22] The discussion of player offerings and “sacrifices” is interesting, as is the note that player characters can only willingly be sacrificed by other players.
[00:19:28] Based on the text of EPT, it seems that divine intervention isn’t merely a method of last resort, but something that is a normal option, even if you don’t do it all the time. Victor and James review the final portion of the “example of play” in §2810 at page 102, which ends with the hapless characters suggesting divine intervention.
[00:21:49] Many early examples of play end badly for the players. Victor and James discuss an example from early D&D.
[00:23:28] Back to EPT, it’s also noteworthy that you can’t purchase divine intervention on credit.
[00:24:39] There’s an example of divine intervention that may be referenced in the novels. Going from memory, Victor relates that he’s heard that prior to the war with Yán Kór, a player character from Prof. Barker’s campaign requested divine intervention from Sárku when he realized that his cohort was about the get wiped out. He made a vague request of the god, and the result touched off the war.
[00:28:52] Has any player character ever called on Avánthe? The nature of the god is relevant to the kind of intervention granted.
[00:29:30] Calling for divine intervention did happen while Victor played with Prof. Barker. But by this time (the mid-80s), the players were all aware of how many unintended consequences could result, and so only used it when matters were especially dire.
[00:30:43] Bob Brynildson played a priest of Avánthe for a while. Later, the group discovered that the priest was actually an accomplished assassin, illustrating that even Avánthe has pragmatic aspects.
[00:31:58] Victor notes the caution given to players about looting the shrines and tombs of the gods they worship. This will end the players’ chances of divine intervention. But the gods don’t always mind you looting the other god’s holy sites – in Tékumel, context is everything.
[00:36:03] The only thing that these mechanics don’t take into account is the differences in the results of calling upon a cohort instead of their god. Is there anything a god can do, that a cohort can’t?
[00:37:06] The interests of the Gods of Change are generally more in tune with the attitudes and needs of adventurers. Victor notes that in the recorded instances of divine intervention, only Thúmis is mentioned. This occurs in the Epic of Hrúgga.
[00:40:01] Most of Prof. Barker’s early player characters “gelled” because they worshiped either Vimúlha or Ksárul. They either wanted to burn their problems away, or acquire personal power and knowledge, respectively.
[00:40:58] Left unanswered by EPT is how often divine intervention occurs in the world of Tékumel.
[00:41:45] In both James and Victor’s groups, their players have only tried divine intervention twice. James gives a great anecdote about the first time his players tried it.
[00:45:30] Knowing the ultimate goals and motivations of the gods are beyond human comprehension. Victor gives his view on this. He believes that there’s some kind of larger struggle going on between Pavár’s pantheon on the one hand, and the Pariah Deities on the other. Pavár’s gods have an interest in keeping Tékumel in its pocket dimension, while the other deities oppose this.
[00:47:26] These kinds of questions are big part of the dispute in the College at the End of Time. The “Blasphemous Accelerators” like the wizard Metállja feel that the gods are actually bad for humanity, and that they impede humanity’s progress. One of the Blasphemous Accelerators’ bases of operation is in the Unstraightened City, which seems to be cosmologically important.
[00:49:30] In the History of Engsvanyálu (i.e., The Ever-Glorious Empire), Prof. Barker speaks to the concept of the “Hero of the Age.” Basically, everyone is against the Goddess of the Pale Bone, and the actions of the Hero of the Age have cosmological significance.
Hosts: James Maliszewski and Victor J. Raymond.
Producer: Thomas Tiggleman
Flamesong, Professor Barker’s second novel set on Tékumel, is finally back in print. You can purchase the paperback through Amazon. It’s also available as an ebook for Kindle, Nook, or Kobo.
Tékumel Products Referenced:
Swords & Glory Vol. 1 (a.k.a. the “Sourcebook”) 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.
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.
Man of Gold, the first of M.A.R. Barker’s novels set on Tékumel, is back in print. You can purchase it through Amazon or CreateSpace. It’s also available as an ebook for Kindle, Nook, or Kobo.
The Ever-Glorious Empire: Éngsvan hlá Gánga was written by M.A.R. Barker and released as a netbook in 1996. It is available for purchase as a PDF at DriveThruRPG. It details the history of the Empire of the Priest-Kings of Gánga.
The Tongue of Those Who Journey Beyond: Sunúz was originally published in 1994 by Prof. Barker. You can purchase the PDF from DriveThruRPG.
The Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 1st Edition Dungeon Master’s Guide is available as a PDF from DriveThruRPG.
Arduin is a roleplaying game and setting written by David A. Hargrave, and originally self-published in 1977. Several subsequent publishers have released products for Arduin, most notably Grimoire Games. Early on, Arduin incorporated material from genres beyond traditional medieval fantasy.
RuneQuest is another Chaosium product with a distinguished history. It first saw print in 1978, and is based on the same Basic Role-Playing framework as Call of Cthulhu.
Tom Moldvay authored the second edition of the Dungeons and Dragons Basic Set, published in 1981. It is colloquially known today as the “Moldvay Basic Set.”
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