Thursday, October 9, 2014

Urutlényal lél korúnyal

(Scrolls and books)

Tékumel has a publishing history that stretches back to the dawn of the RPG hobby - Empire of the Petal Throne was published by TSR in 1975.

Since then there have been 4 more professionally published rule-sets, with the last just released a week or so ago - Béthorm: The Plane of Tékumel

Additionally, there are many, many other publications:  novels by M.A.R Barker, miniatures rules, lots of supplemental setting information, and many fan-created materials as well.

Rather than duplicate information found elsewhere, I refer you to Brett Slocum's excellent spreadsheets via his blog - The Eye of Joyful Sitting Amongst Friends

The Tekumel Publication Index
The Tekumel Article Index

Truly a plethora.  Unfortunately, much of this information is out of print, although the Tékumel Foundation has been hard at work getting as much as possible up at PDF sites like RPGNOW.

So where is an aspiring GM or curious person to start?

I think at this point, if you are a role-playing gamer - start with Béthorm: The Plane of Tékumel.  You can go get it right now - and you can get it right now for a reasonable price in PDF format.  It has enough setting information to get you going, and extensive spell and bestiary listings too.

If you're of a more literary mind, I would track down (via used bookstores, although the Foundation will, I have heard, be re-publishing these soon) the five novels by M.A.R. Barker, most notably Man of Gold and Flamesong, but also Prince of Skulls, Lords of Tsamra and A Death of Kings, all three of which are sequels to Man of Gold. These are not high literature, but they are workable, readable, and enjoyable novels, with the added benefit of giving the reader insight into the setting.  These are very good resources for gamers too, both as players and GMs.

Finally, and always, if you want to get the definitive statement of the setting, albeit in a very dense, academic, and dry fashion, you will want to find the Gamescience Swords and Glory Volume 1, which can be tremendously expensive in the original.  Even the reprints of it are now quite expensive - but they're worth it (I think) if you really want the whole shebang.  A word of caution, however - this book as NO RPG game information in it at all.  It is purely a discourse on the setting.

I would normally at this point recommend also considering purchasing used the Guardians of Order game Tékumel: The Empire of the Petal Thone but I am shocked to discover that it is retailing for over $200 now.

Clearly, there is a desperate need for comprehensive setting information available at a moderate price point.

Nírin kayyál thóntekh hiavánthedàlidàlisà guál

(Blue eyes are the curse of the great and glorious Avánthe)

One of the more interesting aspects of Tékumel is that the people of this world are none of them Caucasian.  All have dark hair (ranging from brown to deep black), all have dark skin (ranging from light tan to very black), all have dark eyes (brown to black).  In fact, the very rare instance of someone being born with blue eyes is considered a curse of a Goddess, and is considered extremely ugly, so much so that those so afflicted may wear a veil (not a common thing) to conceal their deformity.

 All of this makes Tékumel a very different place than the standard, crypto-Medieval European fantasy setting that is common in role-playing games.

Well, that and the 6-legged beasts, and the carnivorous plants, and the magico-technological devices, and the existence of real, actual Gods, and the lack of horses or (much) iron....

Nor is it, clearly, a direct analog of any existing, or historical Earth culture.

While it is certainly true that it's creator took great inspiration from the Mayans and Aztecs, from Moghul India, and Mandarin China, and even (although this is not well know) from the SF pulp fiction of the early part of the 20th Century, it is a unique creation.  In fact, it began to be developed by it's creator vary back in his childhood.  I have heard that he had already come up with several of the Empires of this world when he was still a child, playing with toy soldiers.

It's a mistake, I feel, to think of Tékumel as being an analog of any earth culture, or even a mix of cultures.

But it's also a mistake to let that get in the way of enjoying it.  When you are trying to run, or play in, an RPG game that has Tékumel as it's setting, don't sweat the details.  If you find your entry into the setting by thinking of it in terms of the Aztecs, that's great!  If you find your entry by thinking of it as a sword and planet setting, like something out of John Carter of Mars, by all means, do so.

If and when you get curious to learn more about the creator of this world's vision, there is plenty of material.  But that can certainly wait.

In the meantime, take what you like, don't bother with what you don't and enjoy.

Daritsánik hiTsolyánu Tsolyáni guál

(The language of Tsolyánu is Tsolyáni)

You may have noticed that for some of the site, and in some of the posts so far, a language other than English was used.  This language is Tsolyáni, the language of the Empire of the Petal Throne, Tsolyánu.

Firstly, however, it bears stressing that familiarity with this language is not a requirement for engaging with Tékumel, not in any way.  Think of it this way - you may enjoy opera, but not know Italian (or German, or French, or Russian).  You may like the music of Rammstein, but not speak German.  You may enjoy a corrido, but not speak Spanish.  So it is with Tékumel and Tsolyáni.

However. if you are of a linguistic bent like me, Tsolyáni is a treasure.

A fully-realized constructed language (con-lang), complete with beautiful orthography, really interesting grammar, and a decent sized lexicon.  I believe that the published lexicon of Tsolyáni (with ~3000 words) outstrips the lexicons of many other con-langs, making it actually quite usable.  Add to that the fact that Tsolyáni has facilities for creating many "new" words from existing stems, and you're looking at a decent sized language.

The main sources for study of this beauteous and interesting tongue, which I will add, if studied, gives huge insights into the culture of Tsolyánu, are:

The Tsolyáni Language - M.A.R. Barker - in two volumes with a detailed description of the grammar and lexicon, along with a phrase book section.

The Tsolyáni Primer - Curtis Scott and M.A.R. Barker - a set of introductory lessons in the language.

There is also a CD of M.A.R. Barker pronouncing Tsolyáni words and phonemes - this is currently out of print, but I believe it may be forthcoming from the Tékumel Foundation at some point.  It might be something you could find as a used edition.

There used to be a page ( featuring a Tsolyáni word of the day - a sort of vocabulary builder.  Unfortunately, it appears as if this has gone away.

Finally, there are a couple of online sites where fans of this language have been known to congregate.
The Yahoo Groups Tsolyani group
The Tsolyani Language Facebook group

Linguistically speaking, Tsolyáni is somewhat agglutinative (in that it uses a series of affixes to change the meaning of a stem) and somewhat analytic (meaning that word order plays a role in the meaning of a sentence).  It is, all told, quite easy to learn.  Nouns do not decline, as they do in many Earth languages.  Verbs do not conjugate.  One doesn't have to learn many forms of the same word depending on what role it has in a sentence.

An example (taken from The Tsolyáni Primer, cited above):

Sálum lyútha múra tlatúsmi salás múra lél túsmidali yá tsülchobén dopál.

"I have heard that you have arrived and you are not harmed."

sálum - is a form of the pronoun "I" used by an upper-class person
lyútha - is the transitive verb "to hear, to listen"
múra - is a verbal tense indicator - it indicates that the preceding verb is in "near past time"- usually translated as "have <verb>-ed"
tlatúsmi - a form of the pronoun "you", along with a prefix ("tla-") which indicates that this word is the direct object of the verb.
salás - is the intransitive verb "to arrive, reach"
múra - is the same as above
lél - the conjunction "and"
túsmidali - a form of the pronoun "you", along with the suffix "-dali", meaning "-great"; an honorific form.
- an adverb meaning "no/not", which negates past and present tenses
tsülchobén - the transitive verb chobén meaning "to harm, damage, injure something", along with the prefix "tsül-" which converts a transitive verb into an intransitive verb (allowing it to be used without an object, as it is here).
dopál - a verbal aspect indicator - the continuative - ""

A more literal translation would be

"I have heard that you have arrived and that you are not being harmed."

The above is, admittedly, a bit advanced, but it shows off some of the features of language.  The use of affixes to change meaning and indicate grammatical role.  The use of word order (very similar to English word order).  The cultural indicators of status inherent in the language.

Just as another example, here's the verb "to go" in a few of it's many forms.  You can see that the verb itself remains the same, and various other words are added after it to indicate the "tense".

lúm múle - I go
lúm múle bapál - I may go, I might go (conditional)
lúm múle dáimi - I used to go (general past)
lúm múle molün - I had gone (past-prior)
lúm múle múni - I went (punctilinear past)
lúm múle múra - I have gone (near-past)
lúm mál úl guál múle - I will go (future)

Hopefully, this post inspires those who might have an interest in Tsolyáni to dig in.  It's a never-ending feast, as far as I'm concerned.

Ngángmuru bruháya lel brumazík!

Ngángmuru bruháya lél brumazík! (Greetings in glory and in peace!)

Welcome to, or as it's title indicates "Korúndàlidhálisa hiWísu" (The Great, Powerful, and Beautiful Book of the World").

The goal of this site is to give it's author a place to collect, talk about, and otherwise work on various topics related to Tékumel, The Empire of the Petal Throne - the fantasy world created by the late M.A.R. Barker, along with it's attendant role-playing games, novels, languages and other materials.

To introduce myself, I'm Malcolm, and I've been playing RPG games as well as studying Tékumel as a setting since about 1986.  It's by far my favorite RPG setting, and it's something I feel passionate about.

As the Tékumel Foundation now represents the estate of M.A.R Barker, I will be steering clear from any sort of copying or reproductions of any Tékumel materials.  Instead, I'll be focusing on documenting materials available and out of print, ruminating on various topics, and providing what I hope will be good insights into the world, games set in that world, and the languages that M.A.R Barker created.  I might even share some of the things that have happened in my own Tékumel games.

Please feel free to ask questions, suggest links, or add your own speculations.  All are welcome, assuming they observe the usual niceties of proper, noble behavior.