Swords & Glory
Gamescience, 1983

Physical Components:

S&G Sourcebook Box

Swords & Glory, Volume 1. Tekumel Source Book: The World of the Petal Throne. Copyright 1983. Written by M.A.R. Barker

9.25 x 11 x 11.5 inch boxed set including

Rulebook (8.25 x 10.5 inch softcover, 136 pages; stapled, then glued into a cover)
Mapsheet comprising four maps showing most of the Five Empires (26.75 x 21 inches)
Advertisements for volumes 2 and 3, miniature figures, Qadardalikoi miniatures rules, and Curtis Scott's Gateway to Tekumel play by mail game.

S&G Players Handbook box

 

Swords & Glory, Volume 2. Tekumel Player's Handbook for Adventures in Tekumel. Copyright 1984. Written by M.A.R. Barker; interior art by M.A.R. Barker, Craig James Smith, Peter Quinlan; design by Sarah S. Prince.

9.25 x 11 x 1.5 inch boxed set including

Rulebook (8.25 x 10.5 inch softcover, 240 pages; stapled, then glued into a cover)
Two Gamescience d20s.
Play aids: Character record sheet (8 pages), combat summary (16 pages), sorcery summary (12 pages).

Swords and Glory: Index to Volume One, The Sourcebook. By Thomas Thompson. Tekumel Games, Inc., 1985. The Museum's copy is the second printing, by Tita's House of Games, 1997.

The Different Worlds reprint of the sourcebook:

Swords & Glory, vol. 1 Tekumel Source Book: The World of the Petal Throne Book 1. By M.A.R. Barker, Different Worlds, 1987.

Swords & Glory, vol. 1 Tekumel Source Book: The World of the Petal Throne Book 2. By M.A.R. Barker, Different Worlds, 1988.

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By 1983, it was clear that the original, 1975 Empire of the Petal Throne game was obsolete. Rather than create an updated version, professor Barker decided to write a whole new game. The second commercially released set of rules for Tekumel was Swords & Glory. Originally designed to be sold in three separate boxed sets (!), Swords and Glory was a magnificent visualization of the world of Tekumel. Only the first two sets were produced. The first set contained the Sourcebook (volume one of S&G), and a large mapsheet showing rather more territory than the previous Empire of the Petal Throne maps. The second boxed set contained the Player's Handbook (volume two of the game system), reference sheets, and a pair of percentile dice. The third boxed set was to be the Game Master's Guide, which was never published: the manuscript disappeared, and evidently there was no back-up copy.

Swords & Glory was a very complex game. But in the 1980s, complexity was the norm. Swords & Glory stands with Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, Chivalry & Sorcery, and Bureau 13 as examples of highly complex, "realistic" game systems.

Swords & Glory had something else in common with AD&D: its designer played with much simpler rules at home. Players in Professor Barker's Tekumel games reported that the only rule the Professor used in his home games was "roll percentile dice and let's see what you get."

 

The Setting

If you'd like to know about the setting of Tekumel, click here.

S&G Sourcebook Box The Sourcebook

The Sourcebook was a comprehensive reference work to describe professor Barker's world, without game rules. The amount of information, and the depth of detail are mind-boggling. It includes information of value for players, such as details on the nonhuman races, basic information about the Underworlds, deities worshipped by the various nations of the region, and armor and weapons commonly used by various peoples. For referees, it includes information on clans, climate, legal systems and punishments, currencies, tax policies and systems, languages, cultural norms, and so on. For the merely curious, it includes architecture, fashion, art, agricultural products, foods, and a myriad of other topics. The major headings from the table of contents were:

Astronomical Data (of Tekumel's planetary system)
Early History (from the colonization of Tekumel until the cataclysmic "Time of Darkness")
The Historical Empires (those known to the modern denizens of the Five Empires)
Physical Ethnology (information on the various types of human and intelligent nonhumans; health, demography, and economy; architecture, cities, and remnants of ancient technology)
Family, Lineage and Clan
Religion and "Magic"
Social Groups and Institutions (including social classes, commerce, law, entertainment)
Organizational Structures (government, military, religious organizations)
Customs, Entertainments, Costumes, Weapons
Knowledge and the Arts

In addition, there was a section on the languages of the Five Empires, their scripts, and basic rules on pronunciation.

The book's major flaw was the lack of an index. One was later produced and sold separately (written by Thomas Thompson, originally printed by Tekumel Games), which could be very helpful. The second flaw was that the Sourcebook needed more illustrations: not just to look good, but to show certain features of Tekumel, such as what a typical city or streetscape looks like, or a clanhouse dining room, Tsolyani works of art, and so on.

As a reference work, the Sourcebook remains without peer. Even though S&G is a dead system, the Sourcebook remains current, because it contains no rules information whatsoever. As such, it is a useful adjunct to any Tekumel game—or for any fan of the world, whether they play or not.

We would add a caution to the reader planning on buying a copy: while the Sourcebook is one of the easier to find pieces of out of print Tekumel materials, knowing what's available can be confusing.

First, consider the S&G system: three volumes (Sourcebook, Player's Handbook, and Game Master's Guide), the third of which was never printed. The Sourcebook itself (volume one of S&G) was reprinted by the Different Worlds company and cut into three books. Different Worlds never printed book three. The Different Worlds reprint is often referred to, erroneously, as volumes one and two of the sourcebook. The buyer must take care as to whether they are buying the Gamescience or Different Worlds version of the sourcebook.

A few more words on the Different Worlds versions. In some ways these are easier to use, as they have larger typefaces and a saddle staple binding. They include more art, including a map of the administrative provinces of the Tsolyani Empire in the first book, information not found anywhere else. We also note the famous Blonde Priestess of Vimuhla in the second book, which brought considerable derision from the fans—there are no blondes on Tekumel. We also note that the index to the Sourcebook produced by Thomas Thompson only works with the Gamescience version.

S&G Players Handbook box The Player's Handbook

One would expect the Player's Handbook to be devoted to nothing but rules, because the Sourcebook was all background. While this was largely true, it would be an injustice to the game. Obvious details, such as the sorts of things available for characters to buy, character skills, and so on, must be rooted in the background and provide extra detail. But the Player's Handbook also provided unexpected small gems, such as the identity of one of the premier entertainers of the city of Jakalla, proper care of chlen-beasts and indentured servants, the expected amount for "inducements" to officials, and even a rough map of the city of Urmish peek out from the rules.

The game's basic mechanic was to roll percentile dice, trying to roll inside a defined range. This range had to be looked up on various tables, and there were long lists of die modifiers for virtually any circumstance. But this general rule was frequently violated: in some cases, players only rolled a d10 instead of percentile dice; sometimes players wanted to roll high instead of low. It cannot be said that Swords & Glory was an easy system to learn or play. Like the Sourcebook, the game was a mass of obsessive detail. Barker said in an interview (published in The Space Gamer #71, Nov/Dec 1984) that he wanted to cover every eventuality, so that referees wouldn't have to make anything up. He did not expect players to use all of the rules, only the ones they wanted.

The book began with the typical instructions for beginners: how to use dice, helpful play aids (graph paper, miniature figures, and so on.) After that the book went into character generation, first in rolling for stats, and then buying skills. After that was a section on character income and expenses, a lengthy buying list, and the long section on the game's mechanics. This was followed by the combat system and magic system and list of spells, the spell list alone taking up over a third of the book.

Brace yourselves. Swords & Glory was a very complex and detailed game system, and it would be a disservice to be too brief in describing it.

 

Character Generation

Character creation was a lengthy process involving five steps. First, the character's abilities were generated: some by percentile die rolls, others by rolling on tables, and others were cross indexed as a result of other abilities. The key ability in S&G was the Height-Build-Strength factor, or HBS, a single score to summarize a being's physical prowess. HBS was calculated by separate rolls for height, body build, and strength, and cross indexing the results on a table. HBS, in turn, determined a character's Stamina and hit points, from another table. The remaining statistics— Dexterity, Intelligence, Psychic Reservoir, Psychic Ability, Comeliness, and Charisma—were rolled using percentile dice.

All of these scores were modified depending on the character's race and sex: there were six pages to describe the modifications for human females and the various nonhuman races.

Second, the character's background was determined by rolling on a series of tables. The results were detailed (place of birth, languages known, education, clan status, age, parents, siblings, etc.). Since social status was determined randomly, it was not unlikely for a party of player characters to be unable to comfortably interact with each other. Referees might have to overrule some of the results.

Once the character's background was determined, the third and most important step was to purchase skills. The number of skill points one started with depended on one's age and intelligence, plus a randomly generated 1 - 100 points, so there was a lot of variation between characters in how skilled they were at the start of the game. To further unbalance things, one's social status determined which skills were available, although skills could be purchased off other lists at a quadruple cost.

While S&G was a skill-based game, most adventuring characters were firmly differentiated. To be a fighter, one chose the Warrior skill, and if one had any social standing, the character needed an equivalent number of levels in Soldier. (Only ruffians learned to fight by street brawling.) Likewise, to be a sorcerer one needed levels in the sorcerer skill, and because the temples hold a near-monopoly on magical training, one needed an equivalent number of levels in priest. Not only were these key skills expensive enough to limit one's ability to choose multiple adventurer skills, but culturally, the Tsolyani are very reluctant to train dilettantes. Instructors in weapons use do not train just anybody, unless you have a lot of wealth and social connections—and are willing to endure the gossip and social sniping that accompanies any person of high status who puts so much effort and sweat into a mere physical skill. Similarly, the temples will not grant serious magical training to any who are not their own and who aren't serious about sorcery.

While the system replicated the results of a class-based system (adventurers were either sorcerers or warriors, but never effectively both), the game permitted more flexibility than class-based peers: S&G could handle player characters who wanted to be bureaucrats, artisans, merchants, and so on.

The fourth step to character generation was the selection of subskills: specialized knowledge detailed for spies, assassins, bureaucratic officials, priests, soldiers, and warriors. Warrior subskills included specific weapons, unarmed combat (brawling, martial arts), use of a shield, missile weapons, and heavy artillery. Subskill choices for priests included dogma, scripts, comparative theology, and so forth. Choices for officials included office routines, record keeping, inter-office relations, political theory, and so on.

Warrior subskills influenced the character's combat abilities with different weapons, as did soldier subskills to a lesser degree. For priests and others, subskills mainly served to influence rolls for character advancement and promotion, although there may be moments where one's subskill in temple dogma might be necessary to influence a superior, or a bureaucrat's skill in record keeping could come in handy—for example, tracking down who the true owner of a particular fief might be.

The reader might think that's more than enough detail for a character already. But there was a fifth step, filling in some bookkeeping scores. Character income (determined by profession and status) and expenditures (determined by status) must be recorded, along with determining how much a character can carry, and possibly the purchase of equipment and supplies. The purchase list was fifteen pages long, and was loaded with detail. For example, the list included costs to hire entertainers, buy ships (either passage aboard one, or if you're wealthy, buying the whole vessel), and the cost to rent or buy buildings and land. One could price out how much it would cost to throw a fancy party, including musicians and dancers to hire, gambling equipment, and hunting birds or dogs.

Barker included four and a half pages of advice on how to choose skills and professions. He advised against overspecialization in adventuring skills, reminding players that characters lived in an elaborate culture, where language, etiquette, and hobbies might be required. He also pointed out that different social classes had different views about skills. While a lower class soldier would likely be an experienced fighter, in the upper classes, most skills were more about artistic appreciation than actual effort: a noble warrior might know little more than how to strut around in his fancy armor. (We do note the existence of elite and hard-hitting legions, such as the First Legion of Ever-Present Glory, that recruit among the aristocracy, and we assume soldiers in these legions actually fight.)

Experience

Where most RPGs have a mechanism for increasing adventuring skills, Swords & Glory had rules for changing just about everything, sometimes through multiple mechanisms. Physical attributes might increase through practice and exercise, or be reduced by wounds, disease, or poison. Skills could increase through character practice, studying with a teacher, "ungamed competence," or "gamed victory points". If the proper conditions were met, the player rolled on the appropriate tables. Simple practice and study under a teacher required one to three die rolls to earn from zero to six hundred "competence points," while "ungamed competence" modeled situations where a character might face an important test of her skills, but in the background, not played out in the game. A stunning success meant a gain of competence points, while a failure could mean the loss of these points. "Gamed victory points" described the typical situation of earning experience from defeating a foe using the particular skill. Combat could earn up to 100 points per opponent defeated. Competence points earned through the various experience mechanisms could be spent buying skill levels with the cost varying according to how complex the skill was. "Adventure" skills, such as warrior or sorcerer required 2000 points to increase a level. Depending on a player's luck, advancement could be relatively fast, or proceed at a snail's pace.

Skills might also decline over time. Four months of not using a skill would prompt a die roll, which risked the loss of 1 - 700 skill points, depending on the skill's complexity.

In addition to skill improvement and decline, one's professional status might likewise rise and fall. Officials, priests, and soldiers all have ranks and titles, or in Tekumel terms, belong to "circles." A new level of skill made one eligible for promotion. One rolled percentile dice on a table; the outcome could be dismissal, demotion, no change, or promotion to the next rank or circle. The relative probabilities varied depending on one's current circle, with both promotions and dismissals becoming less likely as characters climbed in status. Modifiers to the die roll were based on comeliness, charisma, clan status, appropriate skills and subskills for the job, inducements (citizens of the Five Empires are well practiced in the art of monetary "inducements," which are both legal and customary), and two random effects for political maneuvering and the number of rivals for the spot. An increase in status might lead to an increase in income, and probably increased living expenses as well. It is of interest to note that one's rank, or circle, would be only roughly related to one's skill level. Each improvement in level offered the opportunity to roll for promotion, but promotion was not guaranteed. Powerful warriors might end their careers as mere captains of 400 men, with the command of the legion going to a politically connected noble with negligible military ability.

 

Basic Game Mechanics

As noted above, the basic mechanic of the game was to roll within a target range (usually trying to roll low) with percentile dice. Outside of combat, rolls would usually be against ability scores or skills. The task or feat attempted was classified as "Easy," "Harder," "Difficult," "Very difficult," or a "Real challenge." Referees cross indexed the task difficulty against the character's ability score, found the target range for success, and players rolled percentile dice, hoping for a low score. A player might need an HBS roll to open a barred door, a stamina check to resist poison, or an intelligence check to figure out how to operate a tubeway car door after seeing someone else do it. There was a separate table for each ability, but many of these tables were identical. There were a few special tables not linked to characteristics within this section: a recovery roll table, to see if an injury was healing; the magic resistance table, to see if a character successfully resisted a spell (more details later); and a divine intervention roll, based on psychic ability, to see if a character's desperate prayer to the gods was answered. This last roll had a full page of potential die modifiers, based on what might be sacrificed to which god to curry his or her favor, and modify the die roll accordingly.

Skill success rolls were similar, but players wanted to roll high instead of low, and there were three possible outcomes instead of the binary "succeed/fail" results of the ability rolls: failure, accomplishment, and resounding success. There were modifiers to the roll based on how difficult the skill was (noted by how many skill points the skill cost), character intelligence and possibly dexterity, if applicable.

As if these weren't enough, there were also five different Perception and Communication checks, using yet another system. Visibility (can something be seen), Discovery (can something be found), Audibility (can something be heard) and Combat Audibility (can something be heard while in combat) all required rolling an eight or less on a d20 for success. The fifth, Language Intelligibility (could the character understand something not in their first language), went back to the roll low on percentile dice mechanic.

 

Combat

Even Barker admitted the combat system to Swords & Glory was complex, and players were invited to ignore details if they slowed down the game too much.

To prepare a character for combat, a few additional scores needed to be computed.

All participants needed to know their Basic Combat Values for each potential weapon they might use. The Basic Combat Value was found on a table, based on the character's HBS and increased by skills in the weapon, related weapons, and soldier skills. Each level of weapon subskill was as good as an increase of 50 HBS points, so weapon skills had a large effect on fighting ability.

Participants also needed to know how many Action Points they had. Action Points were based on the character's dexterity, and various tasks in combat cost a number of action points. With enough points, a person might make multiple attacks in a round. Characters with poor dexterities might have to choose between making an attack or doing such minor things as taking a step forward or back.

After these calculations, combat could begin. The heart of the combat system was basic enough, but with lots of looking up numbers on tables, applying die modifiers, and die rolling.

Initiative. Players rolled d20, and took turns, from high scores to low ones.

Roll to hit. The to hit number was found on a table, where the attacker's Basic Combat Value (with the weapon being used) was cross-indexed to the Basic Combat Value of the target. The player tried to roll below the target number with percentile dice. Equally matched combatants had a 25% chance of hitting their foe.

Roll for damage. There were twelve different damage tables, based on the weapon used. Melee weapons generally used tables A - C, with the highest tables for siege weapons. The attacker rolled a d20 on the matching table (trying to roll high), and looked up the result to see how much damage was done.

If the defender had any protection, an additional roll might be needed. If the target were behind cover or had a shield, the attacker rolled a d10 and tried to roll below the target number for the shield. A success meant the target was hit and took the damage; a failure meant the shield absorbed the damage. Shields had a set number of hit points, and once destroyed, had to be discarded. If the target had no shield (or the damage got through), armor would subtract from the damage.

The system had rules for fumbles ("accidents,") and critical hits. If the attacker rolled a 100 on their attack roll, this meant an accident, and a d10 was rolled against a table. Results might be a loss of initiative in the next round, breaking a weapon, or hitting an ally or oneself by accident.

A roll of 20 on the damage table meant a critical hit. The attacker rolled a d10 and looked it up on a table. This usually meant different degrees of extra damage, but a roll of 10 on the critical hit table meant instant death for the target.

Missile combat was similar, but with more tables. The to hit roll was based on the combat value of the attacker and the range to the target, and this was modified by a long list: size of target, whether target is moving, whether the target is involved in melee, windage, etc. Missile attacks might fumble as well (although the results were usually less dangerous, mainly damage to the weapon itself). Damage from missile weapons was handled the same as for melee weapons, but the damage table rolled on depended on the range from the target as well as the weapon used. Military artillery (ballistas, onagers, and trebuchets) used the same missile rules even though these were unlikely to get much use outside of larger scale battles, where using the S&G system would probably be inadvisable.

For all types of combat, there were long tables of combat modifiers, details on the reach of various weapons (to determine if an opponent was within range to be hit, even with a melee weapon), a separate single die roll system for attacking a surprised opponent, rules on striking opponents with one's shield, a long table of actions a character in melee might perform and the cost in action points, a system to take into account a character's mixed armor (for example, chlen hide armor supplemented by a steel breastplate), a table to check which part of the body was injured in the combat, and much more besides.

Should players require even more complexity, there was a section labeled "combat refinements" with two additions to the combat rules. The first was a system of extensive modifiers to the initative roll based on weapon length, armor encumbrance, wound status, and so on. The second addition was for "called shots," where the attacker aimed at a specific body part of the defender. The "called shot" option had two systems: a simple one, (name the body part targeted before the attack roll, and if successful, roll a d10 to see if that part was hit, or if the damage just goes to the general hit point pool) and a complex system where if a hit was made, a d100 was rolled on a table to determine which body part was struck; attackers could modify the die roll up or down depending on how many skill levels they had with their weapon, making it more likely that they'd strike their target.

 

Magic

In some ways, the magic system was more complex than the combat system. This is because the professor took great pains to simulate how magic works on Tekumel. We must explain background information in some detail here, to make clear how the magic rules fit the setting.

Virtually all magic in the Five Empires is learned through the temples, because the temples are the source for higher learning in any subject. Therefore, while magic has nothing to do with religion, all sorcerers are affiliated with a temple, and most sorcerers are also scholar-priests. For those who do not wish to be encumbered by the temple bureaucracy, or who desire the more comfortable job of being a house-sorcerer to a noble, there are "lay priests," who have a less formal connection to their temple.

Some spells are simple and common, and known to all temples. But as the spells become more powerful, it is more likely to be a jealously guarded secret in one temple or another. Spells are therefore classified first by what temple knows and teaches the spell, and second by the spell's power. Universal spells are known by all temples; Generics are spells that are known in common by some temples, but not all, and the most carefully kept secret spells are Temple spells.

Spells in Swords & Glory have wonderful, baroque names. The sleep spell is "Soporiferousness." A magical barrier is "The Seal Upon the Powers." A beam of sizzling, burning light is "The Fulguration of Immanent Grandeur."

As spellcasters become more adept, they learn further refinements of the basic spells. Each spell may have a number of levels, with increasing power at higher levels, and sometimes different effects. For example, the Light and Darkness spell at level one creates a ball of weak light, at level two creates a ball of darkness, at level five creates a beam of either light or darkness, and at level six the light or darkness can be summoned on the other side of a barrier (useful to aid a clairvoyance spell). Spell levels range from one to ten, with the level being a gauge of the spell's power and cost to cast: while light and darkness is an easy spell (having six variants, from one to six), the protective spell The Sphere of Impermeable Quiescence only has a single, level ten version.

We note two interesting pieces of setting background here. One is that spells may be either psychic or ritual, based on whether casting the spell can be done by mind power alone (psychic) or whether the spell requires gestures, incantations, and ritual substances (ritual). Some have likened spell casting on Tekumel to "closing a circuit." If one's mind sets up the proper channels, the magical energies from the Planes Beyond can flow through, to produce the desired effect. Different mindsets complete different circuits. Other spells are too complex for mental patterns alone to work; here the pattern includes physical gestures, substances, and other accouterments in addition to the mindset to work. Since these movements are sometimes incredibly subtle, and the consequences for failing to complete the pattern precisely are severe, spell casters must not be encumbered by armor, and for the most complex spells, casters may prefer to work in the nude. Ritual spells require a bit less psychic energy to cast, but are easy to block, as any physical restraint on the caster will suffice. Only unconsciousness or metal will prevent a sorcerer from casting a psychic spell, because metal short circuits magical energies.

Unlike Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, the material components needed to cast ritual spells were not specified. Instead, a sorcerer bought a "sorcerer's chest" from the buying list, and this had sufficient components to cast most spells. Surprisingly for a game with so much detail, Swords & Glory said nothing about how many spells the chest could accommodate, nor what it cost to refill.

The other interesting bit of background is that due to the different biologies of the sentient races of Tekumel, many spells only affect those of the caster's own species, although higher level versions may exist that can target different species. This is an important fact to note if a party is depending on healing magic. We also point out that healing spells don't always succeed, even on a member of the same species: the target's genetic code may have drifted enough since the original formulation of the spell millennia ago that the spell is no longer properly focused. When trying to cast healing magic, players must roll against a table to see if the wound can be healed by magic. If the spell is ineffective, then this wound is resistant to magical healing and only a higher level spell will work.

Creating a sorcerer character

To be a sorcerer, a character needed to meet the minimum requirements, with a moderate to high score in psychic ability, psychic reservoir, and intelligence. After buying the requisite levels of "sorcerer" and "priest," the player had twenty five subskill points per level of sorcerer to buy spells. Low level spells were cheaper than high level; Universal spells were cheaper than Generics, and Generics cheaper than Temples. While most spells did not have all ten levels (Terrorisation, for example, had a level two, a level four, and a level nine version), a character had to know all of the lower level versions to buy a higher level version.

Characters were also limited by fiat as to what level spell they were permitted to purchase, according to their overall level in sorcerer. A character with two skill levels in sorcerer, for example, could buy Universal spells of up to third level power, or first level versions of Generic spells, provided they bought all of the prerequisites. Low level sorcerers usually had a large collection of relatively low powered spells at the beginning of the game, because they were prevented from buying expensive ones.

Casting spells

Players needed to compute their character's Psychic Power Points by summing their Intelligence, Psychic Ability, and Psychic Reservoir scores. Casting spells used up these points, and as may be expected, higher level spells cost more points. After spending the relevant points, the player rolled percentile dice to see if their spell succeeded. For the lowest level characters, there was a 20% chance of failure, with this chance decreasing with the character's skill level. Failure meant the spell rebounded on the caster or had no effect at all.

Casters could also risk harm by carrying metal when casting a spell. As noted in the rules, "the energies of the Planes Beyond are short-circuited by too close a proximity to any sort of metal" and a player who forgot this rule rolled a d10 on a table when her character tried to cast a spell while carrying metal: failure was automatic, but there was a good chance of instant death for the character.

Many spells gave targets no chance to resist: if the caster succeeded on the casting roll, the spell took effect. Some spells were "aimed," meaning once the spell was cast, the player had to roll to hit as if firing a missile weapon. A miss meant the spell continued on that course until it struck something or dissipated at the end of its range. Some spells allowed a defender to make a Magical Resistance Roll to avoid the spell's effects.

For the Magic Resistance roll, players calculated their magical resistance score by adding together the raw scores for their intelligence, psychic ability, and psychic reservoir scores. This total was compared to a table to give something misleadingly labeled "equivalent sorcerer/shaman skill level." It was misleading because sorcerers and shamans calculated their magical resistance the same way, then added their skill levels to the magic resistance score. In any case, the target cross-indexed their Magic Resistance score to the caster's skill level in sorcerer, and rolled percentile dice, trying to roll low.

 

Conclusion

Since the referee's guide was never published, this is as far as Swords & Glory got. Even without a referee's guide, it was possible to play the game, especially with some assistance from the original Empire of the Petal Throne rulebook. There were a few features in the Player's Handbook that probably should have gone into the referee's guide, such as movement rates for military units across various terrains. But in the context of a never-completed game, this is quibbling.

Swords & Glory's Tekumel showed dramatic differences from Empire of the Petal Throne's Tekumel. Where Empire of the Petal Throne had good and evil alignments, Swords & Glory referred to Change and Stability. Where Empire of the Petal Throne had impalement as the only real punishment for crime, Swords & Glory made monetary payment—shamtla—the main enforcement for cultural standards. Where Empire of the Petal Throne saw characters as independent individuals, Swords & Glory brought clans to the forefront, and player characters were expected to act on behalf of their clan. Where Empire of the Petal Throne had a D&D-type magic system, where spells, once used, were forgotten until the next dawn, Swords & Glory used a spell-point system, firmly grounded in Tekumel's metaphysics. Finally, the games had different perspectives. Characters in Empire of the Petal Throne came into the game as clanless barbarians, and both characters and players learned about Tsolyanu slowly, by interacting on the fringes of it, until the lucky foreigners were able to apply for citizenship. Characters in Swords & Glory began as full-fledged members of the community, and this required access to mountains of information for players and referees to absorb. Another contrast is that EPT had a default story of characters coming into Jakalla as clanless barbarians. S&G, at least from what we can see of it, was more traditional in giving players a world and a set of rules. The stories were up to the players and referee.

As might be expected, Swords & Glory never caught on. Besides being incomplete, it was too big and too complex. However, as a reference work, it was superb. Not merely for the Sourcebook; the Player's Handbook shows Professor Barker's vision for his world. Only a game as detailed as Swords & Glory would bother to note that healing spells do not always work; or list the valuables the gods consider worthy of sacrifice, noting all of the known gods across the map; describe the uses of various poisons ("In Livyanu, the Lluneb of the Pinnacle of Euz, based in Hrais, utilises Aulieb lizard venom for the non-fatal poison into which their arrows are dipped"); or break out the various sub-skills that ritual priests and administrative priests will use in their profession.

Besides its complexity, the game had other problems. Because it used a number of different mechanics, both players and referees needed considerable experience to play the game well, and referees could be buried under a mountain of papers in play. This game was not a good introduction to Tekumel, but an incredibly elaborate feast for those who'd whetted their appetites on Empire of the Petal Throne.

On the other hand, the sweep of the game was to be admired. Swords & Glory was a way to simulate living on Tekumel, especially if players didn't want to be warriors or sorcerers. We have seen few other games that could even potentially run the life of an ambitious bureaucrat, a ritual priest, or a merchant, but Swords & Glory could handle these. We see this game as an admirable effort: perhaps not one for playing, but certainly for putting on display and maybe even using for reference once in a while.

Swords & Glory needed a cleaner second edition. The game mechanics needed to be standardized, character generation and the combat system needed to be simplified, and the number of situational modifiers needed to be reduced to make the system playable. In a sense, it came to pass, but under a new name. The revised Swords & Glory was called Gardasiyal, Deeds of Glory. While we like Gardasiyal, we still feel the original S&G has more of Barker's vision in it, and we value our copy as a reference work.

Personal notes from the Curator

As noted before, I was hooked on Tekumel ever since I discovered Empire of the Petal Throne. But I didn't feel competent to play it. Swords & Glory's sourcebook fanned the flames of my determination to learn more about this alien world, and to try to run games in it. Yes, I did play Swords & Glory a few times, each time deeply regretting the absence of the third volume. I am thrilled to be able to showcase this game in the Museum at long last.

—RAD
3/22/07

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