Sunday, December 05, 2010

Old School Tekumel

So a group of us had the chance this afternoon to play Empire of the Petal Throne. Not the more mind-bending Sources and Glory version, or the more genteel TOME version, or even the GOO version. No, the original, first published by TSR in 1975 (!) and later reprinted by Different Worlds.

It was the old, refreshing rush you get from the old National Geographics that have been in your grandparents' attic for a bajillion years.

The plot was fairly straightforward - the group in Jakalla, gets word of an abandoned temple of Ksarul (Doomed Prince of the Blue Room) up in the hinterlands, decides to check it out. Kidnaps a priest of Ksarul en route as a guide. Since I got there late, I entered the game as said Priest of Ksarul, and we fought Vorodla ("the Flying Undead") and Hra ("the Bloodsuckers") before my priest angered the god Ksarul (grabbing a magical scepter that the god specifically told me NOT to grab) and being bodily lifted into the Blue Room, where he would be tortured forever. Then I generated a slave we uplifted from the group to carry on the fight.

And it was fun. A definite roll back to the good old days of roleplaying. Character creation was easy, and life was cheap. The mechanics were simplistic to the extreme, but there was a lot of room the PCs and the GM to move around. Most of the mechanics were ill-formed to handle the challenges of the adventure (How do you detect a trap in those pre-Thief days?). We were making stuff up on the fly. My Priest managed to face down a horde of Ksarul-created undead (at least once - then I had to have magical help). And one of our players ran through three characters over the course of the afternoon.

It was a great reminder of how wonderful and how frustrating the old rules were, and how you could not take it horribly seriously, and how the interaction between characters would be as interesting as those against the monsters. (The party wizard was a Wizard worshipping Thumis, Ksarul's rival, and my priest was planning an accident for him before we left the ruined temple). And it had all sorts of wonkiness, like award XP to the one who killed the monster, which encouraged kill-stealing but also made it possible to give XP over the course of battle. Or making everyone over 4th level divide XP by two, which meant we would be forth level forever, except the wizard (sorry, magic-user) who found the Book of Qiyor and ended up skipping a level immediately.

And a good time was had by all. More later,