Welcome to The Hall of Blue Illumination, the podcast dedicated to the fantastic world of Tékumel. In this episode, our hosts discuss “Eyes”, a unique class of magical item commonly encountered by players in Tékumel. Then James and Victor discuss the peculiar Tsolyáni institution of the clan house, its importance to Tsolyáni society, and how GMs can use a clan house in their games.
[00:00:33] Eyes! [“…they are shaped like small, dull gems, with an eye-like aperture on one side and a protruding stud on the other, which activates the device” — EPT 1300, p. 71]. Of all the magical items on Tékumel, eyes might be the most misunderstood by players. They’re magical items left over from the time of the ancients.
[00:01:18] For some eyes, it’s difficult to conceive of their original places in the societies that created them.
[00:01:47] James has always assumed that there are a group of eyes that were created before the Time of Darkness, and then others that were created later by peoples who still remembered or discovered the methods of their creation. James proposes that some of the stranger eyes were created by these people working in later times.
[00:03:05] The Excellent Ruby Eye (EPT §1310 (2), p. 71) is mentioned as one of the most common. It can freeze one to six beings in time. No spells can release these individuals, only another charge from the Excellent Ruby Eye.
[00:04:20] EPT actually mentions someone who was left in this frozen state for a lengthy period: Rusty. (EPT §2830, p. 103).
[00:05:32] Is a target of an Excellent Ruby Eye frozen in place? Can they be moved? In Victor’s experience, they can be moved, but it’s difficult.
[00:09:16] The Eye of Calling Forth an Unconquerable Army (EPT §1310 (8), p. 71). This eye summons an army of automata from another plane to fight for you.
[00:12:31] The Eye of Allseeing Wonder (EPT §1310 (5), p. 71) reveals invisible objects and dimensional doors. It could also help a user find nexus points.
[00:13:04] The Eye of Departing in Safety (EPT §1310 (10), p. 71). This can be used to create a “safe point” to which that a second use of the eye will return you. James notes that it only has a range of 300 feet, and Victor notes that this isn’t an exhaustive list of eyes. Regardless, if the user doesn’t set a return point, they are transported “into illimitable darkness from whence there is no returning.”
[00:17:50] Victor describes a kind of in-between place that players in Prof. Barker’s original campaign encountered when they used nexus points, that was surrounded by illimitable darkness.
[00:19:19] Eyes are relatively fragile. You can drop them without breaking them, but if you smash it with a hammer it would destroy it. The hosts discuss whether this results in an explosion of energy.
[00:20:46] The Eye of Incomparable Understanding (EPT §1310 (15), p. 72) translates any spoken human or nonhuman language. Note that it doesn’t translate written language, but there’s also no limitation on the nonhuman languages that can be understood. Victor notes an example of human use of the ESP spell on nonhumans from Dragon #9. Essentially ESP fails for all nonhuman languages except Mihálli, and the caster just hears static and garble.
[00:23:30] The Eye of Raising an Infernal Barrier (EPT §1310 (22), p. 73) raises a wall of flame at the feet of the user. James has a hard time believing that such an eye would exist before the Time of Darkness.
[00:25:20] The Eye of Exquisite Power Over Maidens (EPT §1310 (11), p. 72) charms members of the opposite sex. Nonhumans are unaffected. Its effect is permanent, until it’s used again to dismiss the effect.
[00:26:19] Similarly, The Eye of Transformation (EPT §1310 (30), p. 73) permanently changes the target’s alignment until it is used again on the target. James feels that this effect is very “game-y” rather than something that would make sense in a real context. Victor notes that it was first discovered by a player character in the Jakállan underworld.
[00:27:39] There were 33 eyes that are included in the mimeo version of EPT, and 36 in the published TSR version.
[00:30:20] Some eyes run parallel to spells, but their effects usually aren’t precisely the same. The Eye of Hastening Destiny (EPT §1310 (13), p. 72) does not act like the haste spell, and the Eye of Being an Unimpeachable Shield Against Foes (EPT §1310 (6), p. 71) does not act like the invulnerability spell. The Eye of Retaining All Things (EPT §1310 (24), p. 73) is not the same as Harsán’s putting-something-around-the-corner spell.
[00:33:11] Victor’s cat wants attention. Cats are one of the few recognizable Earth animals that appear on Tékumel.
[00:34:50] The Thoroughly Useful Eye (EPT §1310 (36), p. 74) is very important because it can be used to recharge other eyes. They’re incredibly rare. Victor suspects that this is merely a “pocket charger” and that there may be locations on Tékumel where an eye could also be recharged.
[00:36:45] Spoilers: Victor discusses major plot points of Flamesong, where an eye that is the almost the opposite of the Thoroughly Useful Eye serves as a McGuffin.
[00:38:10] Victor notes the five percent chance that an eye can be defective or explode. (EPT §1300, p. 71) Neither James nor Victor have used this effect in their campaigns because it seems so needlessly cruel.
[00:39:55] The Eye of Ruling as a King in Glory (EPT §1310 (28), p. 73) causes 10 to 1,000 beings to follow the user and loyally obey his commands for ten turns. This can radically change the course of a campaign, and it’s an example of how powerful magical items were in early RPGs.
[00:44:44] The Tsolyáni Clan House. There’s no definitive description. The idea of this level of communal living is foreign to Americans and most people in the West. It’s uniquely Tékumel.
[00:47:23] The clan house takes the place of many of the stock locations in traditional RPGs (gathering places, places to find employment, places to acquire resources prior to adventuring). It’s a home base, but it also serves many of these purposes.
[00:48:48] The Sourcebook discusses the role of clans in depth, and Victor reads in excerpt (Sourcebook §1500, p. 43). Being part of a clan gives you a place in society. It’s the main foundation of society, and if player characters don’t belong to a clan, they have a strong encouragement to join one.
[00:50:36] Because Tsolyáni culture varies throughout Tsolyánu, there probably isn’t a uniform floorplan. That said, the further up and the further back from the street your place in the clan house is, the higher status you are within the clan itself.
[00:52:48] Because clans include various lineages and families, there will probably be spaces within the clan house dedicated to those families or portions of families, and they may have shared living and communal spaces.
[00:54:25] What does a clan house look like from the outside? It will have a main entrance, which is big enough for several people to enter. There probably won’t be very many external windows on the first floor. Also there will be members of the clan who are assigned to greet someone attempting to enter.
[00:56:16] Not everything is arranged perfectly. That’s one of the reasons that ditlána happens, to pull down the old and rebuild anew.
[00:58:39] Clan houses often aren’t blocky, rational structures. They might be quartered in parts of buildings, or in buildings separated by streets.
[01:00:10] A clan engaged in mercantile business might have a public area where non-clan members are invited in for business purposes.
[01:02:15] Some clans have access to the underworld via the clan house. This can be the source of several adventures.
[01:04:59] Would clan houses have armories? It depends on what kind of business they’re involved in. But it doesn’t have to be a common feature, especially in a placid urban environment.
[01:08:00] Victor teases The Egg of the World, his guide to gaming on Tékumel, and talks about the “county cousins campaign” an alternative to the “fresh off the boat” campaign, where a clan house elsewhere in Tsolyánu sends members to another clan house that needs new members.
[01:13:04] In Victor’s campaign, all of his player characters have now joined clans. They’re learning that money isn’t something they have to count out; instead they can use the clan’s resources. In this way the prices become more social and less monetary. Most clans don’t engage in internal transfers of money among members for goods and services.
[01:15:15] Of course, if adventures suddenly find themselves with a lot of wealth, the clan might come to them and request a contribution.
Hosts: James Maliszewski and Victor J. Raymond.
Producer: Thomas Tiggleman
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 DriveThruRPG.
Dragon Magazine was originally published by TSR, and titled The Dragon until 1980 with issue #39. The Dragon #9 was cover-dated September 1977.
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.