Adventures on Tekumel Part One: Growing Up On Tekumel

Written by M.A.R. Barker
Illustrations by Kathy Marschall

Theatre of the Mind Enterprises, Inc., 1992

Cover of AoT Book One

8 1/2 x 11 1/4 inch book, 44 pages, saddle stapled.

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Part One of Adventures on Tekumel was the character generation system, released as a stand-alone book. The introduction described it as a character generation system and introduction to Tekumel. Characters created by it would be run through a series of solo adventures, and after that would enter an unspecified role playing game.

Physically, the book was very nicely done. The print was a nice, large, readable typeface, with appropriate cultural information laid out in large gray sidebars. A heavy stock character booklet (at 4 pages, it can't be called a "sheet") was stapled into the middle of the book, with permission to photocopy. There were plenty of illustrations, and Ms. Marschall's art showed a gentle, peaceful, happy Tsolyanu, with youngsters in typical settings: a cityscape on the cover, and inside, a clanhouse, temple, school, fencing practice, and so on. The final illustration showed a girl playing with a baby and some baby toys, a scene that wouldn't be out of place in our world, save that the stuffed animals were a tinaliya and a chlen beast. Girl and baby

The book created characters similar to those generated in Swords & Glory, with some differences. But Growing Up on Tekumel actually "grew up" the characters, instead of producing fully formed adults.

Before generating any statistics, characters were placed in their cultural context: the character's clan, religion, and close family relations were generated on a series of tables. Unlike previous Tekumel games, AoT only permitted characters to start as High, Very High, or Imperial clan members. Also unlike previous games, players were given lists of typical Tsolyani names to choose from, so that there would be no further need for "Bob, the priest of Sarku."

Characteristics were essentially the same as Swords & Glory's, and generated in much the same way, by rolling percentile dice: dexterity, intelligence, psychic ability, psychic reservoir, comeliness, and charisma. Also like Swords & Glory, the key characteristic for any physical activity, especially combat, was the Height-Build-Strength score, determined by rolling for the character's height, body-build, and strength, and cross-indexing the results on a table, modifying for dexterity and intelligence. Hit points were calculated directly from HBS; no separate Stamina score was computed.

Instead of handing players a pile of skill points and lists, Growing Up on Tekumel modeled the character's formal education. Players selected skills from an elementary education list, then a higher education list, and if they opted to remain in school rather than begin adventuring at age 15, further specialized training.

If a player wanted to be a traditional adventurer character, he had to start his character on this path from the beginning: both "warrior" and "sorcerer" skills were available on the elementary education list. Players who wanted sorcerer characters also needed to purchase priest skills, as sorcery is primarily learned through the temple schools. Players who wanted warrior characters would probably want to choose "military science" skills, to ease their climb up the soldier's path, the best way for a high clan character to learn fighting skills. The only other route to learning them was to dabble in warrior skills as a hobby when the character grew older.

As player characters began their advanced education, some skills became more detailed. "Military science," "Priest," "Sorcery," and "Warrior" disappeared from the upper skill lists, and players selected individual skills. Warriors chose skills in specific weapons; soldiers learned drills, formations, and tactics; priests learned dogma, scriptures and mythology (if choosing to be ritual priests), record-keeping, governance, and administration if choosing to be administrative priests, and sorcerers learned specific spells.

After reaching age 15, players could opt to have their characters enter the game or continue their education in one-year stints. Players may thus stay in school until age 20, when they were forced into the game.

Growing Up on Tekumel was a clever introduction to Tekumel. Characters developed using the system were integrated into the background. As the player made choices, the character took on some personality. The sidebar text gave good flavor into what the Tsolyani education system was like for high clan individuals. Not only that, but the short skill lists and the restriction on buying a skill no more than twice on each pass meant that characters were forced to buy skills that would be unlikely to be needed in the game. How many games created characters that sang in the temple choir, did recreational fishing or boating, or had hobbies such as collecting ancient perfume bottles?

The system was limited, however. There was no provision for creating non-humans, foreigners, or characters from lower clans. The rules were a bit fuzzy and confusing sometimes: early education and hobby skills had to be converted into regular skills and it wasn't always clear how to do this, and there was some confusion as to how many levels of specific priestly skills could be purchased at each pass. But on the whole, it was a fun way to generate characters.

Growing Up On Tekumel was more than just a character generation system. The last section of the book had rules on the minor improvements in skills that happened when a character wasn't adventuring, a feature that the Gardasiyal boxed set referred back to.

June 30, 2006

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