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TEKUMEL II

Today I’m going to make another post on Tekumel and the Empire of the Petal Throne RPG setting and fantasy world. This one will give you the basic Wikipedia background.

 

TEKUMEL

Tékumel is a fantasy world created by M. A. R. Barker over the course of several decades from around 1940.[1] With time, Barker also created the role-playing game Empire of the Petal Throne, set in the Tékumel fictional universe, and first published in 1975 by TSR, Inc. In this imaginary world, huge, tradition-bound empires with medieval levels of technology vie for control using magic, large standing armies, and ancient technological devices.

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Sources

Barker’s legendarium, like that of the better-known J. R. R. Tolkien, considered not just the creation of a fantasy world but also an in-depth development of the societies and languages of the world. In other words, the setting also provided a context for Barker’s constructed languages which were developed in parallel from the mid-to-late 1940s, long before the mass-market publication of his works in roleplaying game and book form.[1][2][3]

The most significant language created by Barker for his setting is Tsolyáni, which resembles Urdu, Pushtu and Mayan. Tsolyáni has had grammatical guides, dictionaries, pronunciation recordings, and even a complete language course developed for it. In order for his imaginary languages to have this type of depth, Barker developed entire cultures, histories, dress fashions, architectural styles, weapons, armor, tactical styles, legal codes, demographics and more, inspired by Indian, Middle Eastern, Egyptian and Meso-American mythology in contrast to the majority of such fantasy settings, which draw primarily on European mythologies.

Setting

The world of Tékumel, Nu Ophiuchi d (a.k.a. Sinistra d), was first settled by humans exploring the galaxy about 60,000 years in the future, along with several other alien species. Their extensive terraforming of the inhospitable environment, including changing the planet’s orbit and rotation rate to create a 365.25-day year, disrupted local ecologies and banished most of the local flora and fauna (including some intelligent species) to small reservations in the corners of their own world, resulting in a golden age of technology and prosperity for humankind and its allies. Tékumel became a resort world, where the wealthy from a thousand other stars could while away their time next to its warm seas.

Suddenly,[4] and for reasons unknown, Tékumel and its star system (Tékumel’s two moons, Gayél and Káshi, its sun, Tuléng, and four other planets, Ülétl, Riruchél, Shíchel, and Zirúna) were cast out of our reality into a “pocket dimension” (known as a béthorm in Tsolyáni), in which there were no other star systems. One hypothesis is that this isolation happened through hostile action on the part of an unknown party or group. Another is that the cosmic cataclysm was due to over-use of a faster than light drive which warped the fabric of space. No one knows, but the inhabitants of Tékumel, both human, native, and representatives of the other starfaring races, were now isolated and alone.

Severed from vital interplanetary trade routes (Tékumel is a world very poor in heavy metals) and in the midst of a massive gravitic upheaval due to the lines of gravitational force between the stars being suddenly cut, civilization was thrown into chaos. The intelligent native species, the Hlüss and the Ssú, broke free from their reservations and wars as destructive as the massive geographic changes ravaged the planet. Several other significant changes took place due to the crisis: mankind discovered it could now tap into ultraplanar energies that were seen as magical forces, the stars were gone from the sky, dimensional nexi were uncovered and pacts with “demons” (inhabitants of dimensions near in n-dimensional space to Tékumel’s pocket dimension) were made and a complex pantheon of “Gods” (powerful extra-dimensional or multi-dimensional alien beings) discovered. Science began to stagnate until ultimately knowledge became grounded in traditions handed down from generations long ago, the belief that the universe was ultimately understandable slowly faded, and a Time of Darkness descended over the planet.

Much of Barker’s writing concerns a time approximately 50,000 years after Tékumel has entered its pocket dimension.[5] Five vast tradition-oriented civilizations occupy a large portion of the northern continent. These five human empires, along with various non-human allies who are descended from other star faring races, vie to control resources, including other planar “magical powers” and ancient technology, as they vie for survival and supremacy among themselves as well as hostile and other non-human races.

Much of the gaming materials and other writings focus particularly on these Five Empires which control much of the world’s northern continent (only about an eighth of the planet’s surface has published maps).

Languages

Tsolyáni is one of several languages spoken on the world of Tékumel, and was the first conlang published as part of a role-playing game. It is inspired by Urdu, Pushtu and Mayan, the latter influence can be seen in the inclusion of the sounds hl /ɬ/ and tl //.[dubious ]

As could be expected, Barker put great effort into the languages of Tékumel. Although Tsolyáni is the only Tekumeláni language that has had a full grammar book, dictionary, pronunciation tapes (on CD) and a primer, publicly released, it is not the only language for this world that Barker developed.

Also available are grammar guides for the Yán Koryáni and Livyáni languages which are spoken in two other of the “Five Empires” of the known parts of Tékumel, as well as grammar books for Engsvanyáli and Sunúz. These two languages are now extinct, dead languages. Engsvanyáli is of use as it is the root language for Tsolyáni and many of the other currently spoken languages of the known parts of Tékumel. Sunúz is of interest because, although it is obscure, it is quite useful for sorcerous purposes. For instance, Sunúz contains terms to describe movement in a six dimensional multi-planar space, something of use to beings who visit the other planar realms where “demons” live.

Barker also published extensively on scripts for other languages of Tékumel.

 

THE LOST WORLD

I don’t know how many of you RPG players who frequent my blog are old enough to remember the Empire of the Petal Throne (in Tekumel).

I’m old enough to remember both it and the original Blackmoor, and I bought and played both, though some short time after their original releases.

In any case I always thought Empire of the Petal Throne, not just the D&D setting, but the entire milieu (fictional and gaming) was one of the very most interesting fantasy mileus/worlds ever invented.

So in honor of this I will be making some posts, today and in the near future, on this brilliant and fascinating fantasy setting, and world.

Anyway, to you younger players, or to you older players who still remember this world and this setting, you should find this interesting.

Enjoy.

 

The World of Tékumel

At what point does a world become real? You can detail the languages, cultures, personalities, political systems, histories … but beyond all this is something more that can bring a world alive in the imagination … and make it almost exist.

click to enlargeThe Thoroughly Useful Eye

[click to enlarge]

The world of Tékumel is complex—steeped in history, hoary tradition, a complex clan and social system, myriad flora and fauna. There is a proverb for every time and place, several complete languages and their beautiful scripts, and thirty-four forms of the personal pronoun ‘you’ in Tsolyáni.

This section holds canonical information (recognised by Professor Barker as ‘official’ or ‘real’ Tékumel) about the world of Tékumel that has been previously published in various game systems, sourcebooks and novels. Over time The Eye of Illuminating Glory section will become a comprehensive overview of all aspects of the world of Tékumel: history, races, maps, cultures, language, militaria, arcana and more.

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You are about to enter the world of Tékumel, the incredible work of imagination by Professor M.A.R. Barker.

If you’ve never encountered Tékumel before, you’ve stumbled upon an entire world the equal of Tolkien’s Middle-earth in detail and wonder: thousands of years of history, entire languages, rich cultures, unique creatures, bloody conflicts and fascinating mysteries.

Whether a new visitor or an old fan, there’s a world to explore here at the official home of M.A.R. Barker’s Tékumel:

About the Site

The Eye of Incomparable Understanding

About the Site

If you’re new to Tékumel, start by reading this section: a brief welcome, a guide for new visitors, a history of changes to the site, and a comprehensive site map. Here also can be found the Tékumel FAQ and the Tékumel Product List, plus the site’s ever-useful search function.

World of Tékumel

The Eye of
Illuminating
Glory

World of Tékumel

Lots of fascinating information to immerse you in the rich science-fantasy world of Tékumel. We’ll explore the world’s history, the most common gods worshipped, some of the strange beings that share the planet with mankind, and a comprehensive collection of maps of the northern continent.

Tékumel Gaming

The Eye of
Opening
the Way

Tékumel Gaming

Role-playing, boardgaming and miniatures gaming, for those who wish to adventure among Tékumel’s inhabitants. Here you’ll find a wealth of roleplaying systems, adventure materials, game system tools and playing aids, plus a look at miniatures created for Tékumel.

Tékumel Archive

The Eye of
Retaining All
Things

Tékumel Archive

Hard-to-find information from now-defunct fanzines and online mailing lists, including the Eye of All-Seeing Wonder and Visitations of Glory. Visit Tékumel Tales for fiction set on Tékumel. You’ll find useful links to other sites and discussions, plus The Blue Room, a vast repository of information.

Want to talk with other explorers of Tékumel? The Forums.

Hunting for that rare Tékumel item? Tita’s House of Games.

Writing new Tékumel material? The Tékumel Foundation.

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