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Tuesday, 30 November 2010

A thing of beauty

This is a cross-post from the Mirabilis Year of Wonders blog, but I feel justified in squeezing a snippet about my personal projects before some more bits of big news from Fabled Lands LLP over the next week or two.

The Mirabilis Year of Wonders e-comic book is going to go live in only a few weeks now. But I just had to share this pic with you because I've been playing the ad hoc build and it really is a dream. Lush magic lantern colors, razor-sharp graphics, and an interface that's as stylish and smooth as an Irish coffee poured by George Clooney. If you're used to struggling with existing comic reader apps, you're going to be blown away by what our resident iOS wizard has conjured up.

Don't wait. Really, you should go direct to your nearest Apple retail store (look here for Apple in the UK or Apple in the US), buy yourself an iPad for Christmas, and you will then be able to get the reader app and the first chapter of Mirabilis free, with the other chapters available via our nifty in-app storefront. The Mirabilis graphic novel on iPad is our way of telling you that the Year of Wonders has arrived.

Monday, 29 November 2010

The Clan of the Red Flower

As the last instalment of our Tsolyani police campaign, here is the background of the clan to which most of the player-characters belong.

The Red Flower Clan traces its ancestry back to the war-fleets of the ancient kingdom of Vra. Vra was conquered by Tsolyáni troops more than a millenium ago, in the reign of the Emperor Kanmi’yel Nikuma IV, and the fleets were disbanded. In the years that followed, the clan prospered through trade with Ganga, Thayuri and the mainland. Clanhouses were established overseas first at Tleku and Petris Layoda, then at Jakálla and Penom on the coast, then upriver at Pala Jakálla, Bey Sü and Thraya.

The clanhouse in Pala Jakálla has some 800 members (not including children) spread across six lineages:

The Laumek lineage is highest in status. It has seventy members, few of whom take a day-to-day interest in the clan’s shipping business. Some are bureaucrats, others priests and lay-priests of the temples of Thúmis, Hnalla and Ketengku. It is this lineage which holds title to most of the clan’s ships. The family characteristics of the Laumeks are their honesty, dignity and flair: the very models of lan behaviour.

Next in status is the Chaquvar lineage, which has fifty members. This is the traditional provenance of the clan’s navigators and captains. Some other members are enlisted in the Legion of the Echoing Stone and the Squadrons of Tlaneno the Steersman, and a few are guards at the temple of Chegarra. The Chaquvars are noted for their phlegmatic temperament.

The Ji’anash lineage, of medium status, comprises most of the clan’s book-keepers and business administrators. Members are noted for their perspicacity and caustic wit. Some are employed as middle-level bureaucrats at the Palace of Foreign Lands, and a few are scholar-priests at the temple of Wuru. This lineage has eighty members.

The Dorusan lineage has a hundred and ninety members. Many are seamen and bargees, but some younger members enlist as Sakbe guards and city militia for a few years before returning to help with the clan enterprises. The Dorusan lineage are renowned for their bravery and droll wit. Traditionally they are followers of Karakan and Chegarra, but there have been exceptions.

The Issasa lineage traditionally reveres the god Karakan, particularly in his 10th Aspect as Jajkuru the Victor of Ships. From among its two hundred and ninety members are drawn many of the ordinary seamen of the clan. The principal family characteristic is a good-natured willingness to muck in.

The Zinarin lineage is of lowest status. It has a hundred and twenty members, most of whom are engaged in semi skilled labour and activities peripheral to the clan’s business (unloading and transporting of wares, cooking and cleaning, repairs to the clanhouse, care of livestock, etc). Zinarins have a reputation for stubborness.

Assets

The clan’s ocean-going vessels consist of one tnek (double masted) and three hru (single-masted). These are capable of transporting cargoes of some nine hundred tonnes, usually on short hauls of a week out to Tleku, Vra or Petris Loyoda. Longer voyages (sometimes as far as Chame’el or Kheiris) are undertaken infrequently.

The clan also has a dozen or so barges for shipping goods by river to Bey Sü and Thraya, and points in between.

Elders

The Pala Jakálla clanhouse is led by a council of twelve elders. Most elders belong to the Laumek and Chaquvar families. Each is appointed for a period of five years, but most have been re-elected to their posts continually for several decades and will continue to serve until removed by senility or death.

The council of elders meets once a week to review domestic affairs, settle intramural disputes and assign funds to clan projects. There is only a general discussion of business, the details of which are left to the Ji’anash family.

The Chief (Dlantü) of the clan is Rifashiya hiLaumek, a sprightly old man of sixty-odd years who cuts quite a dashing figure with his silvery hair and elegant clothes. He gives the impression of never attaching much importance to any difficulties that arise, but manages to deal with things all the same.

Among the other elders, Tershénbei hiDorusan is notable for both his humble origins (he was born in a fishing village on the island of Vra) and his youth. Only thirty, his keen intelligence and calm judgement have made him respected by all.

Noriar hiJi’anash is a gruff old fellow with beetling brows who quietly probes at every aspect of clan life. If there is a feud or a romance going on that everyone else has overlooked, Noriar can be trusted to find out about it.

Gulvesh hiChaquvar is a mild old fellow who is responsible for keeping an eye on the clan buildings. In practice he spends most of his time playing denden over a cup of chumetl while it is left to his assistant, Horu hiZinarin, to make sure that the guttering is kept in good repair and the roof doesn’t leak.

* * *

Come back in a few days, when we'll have a big Empire of the Petal Throne adventure. You can now get EPT from DriveThruRPG as a watermarked PDF for the incredibly low price of $11, and if you don't have it then you have never role-played, my friend, not really. Buy it while you can, for I assure you that goodness is no name, and happiness no dream, and let me remind you that no less an authority than Gary Gaygax himself called it "the most beautiful role-playing game ever created". You can also get the enthalling history of Tsolyanu, Deeds of the Ever-Glorious, told as a series of enthralling anecdotes to challenge the storytelling crown of Simon Schama. That's on sale at $6, essentially a gift at that price - but literally a gift (ie FREE) is the list of demonic powers from The Book of Ebon Bindings, which is the best treatment of demons you will find anywhere in fantasy. And to top it all off there are the eye-popping original TSR maps of the Five Empires and the city of Jakalla. Isn't the internet wonderful?

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Old Jakalla

If you're aiming to try out my Tsolyani police campaign, this guide to the city of Pála Jakálla, written by Jack Bramah, is going to come in useful. (The accents on vowels, as I should have said before, simply indicate where the stress is laid in a word.)

Pála Jakálla
a city guide by Jack Bramah


The capital city of Jakásha Province, Pála Jakálla is situated on the headland between the estuaries of the Missüma and Ranánga rivers. The walls encompass eight hills that rise above the low country of the Flats of Tsechélnu, with the necropolis built on a ninth. Pála Jakálla had a population of some 45,000 at last census (in 2350 AS).

Some say that this was the original site of the great metropolis of Jakálla - hence the name, which means "Yesterday" Jakálla. The noted scholar Nyélme hiSurükhoi asserts that in the course of several Ditlána the site of the city has gradually shifted. However, a shift of forty tsán across a major river is somewhat hard to credit. More credible is the theory that this was the original Jakálla of very ancient times, a title usurped for the current site after the collapse of the Three States of the Triangle.

The mouth of the Missüma River is ideal as a staging post for goods coming down from the interior of the empire. Positioned as it is, the city receives a large proportion of the goods shipped from the hinterland for transportation along the coast or export overseas. Since the river is the easiest method of transporting goods to the capital, the markets of Pála Jakálla are well stocked with exotic goods of all sorts.

Vade mecum

Several noble clans have houses here. Alongside those usually to be found in the south there are clanhouses of the Íto and the Blade Raised High.

Most houses of the noble clans are clustered around the hill on the top of which is the clanhouse Cloak of Azure Gems. Many private mansions and palaces, as well as some of the smaller upper-class clanhouses, are situated on the hill where the Tower of Tanmrúktu stands. The area by the city wall between the Gate of Supernal Wisdom and the Gate of Bushétra contains most of the other high clanhouses such as Grey Cloak and Red Sword. The upper-middle class district comprises the area around the Hirilákte. The buildings between the Governor’s Palace and the Market Square are mostly artisans’ clanhouses, particularly those associated with the finer arts and crafts. The area between the temples and the Missúma holds the lower-class clanhouses, along with some small and rather shabby private residences. The very low-class district lies along the walls next to the Fish Market.

Within the Foreigners’ Quarter, the various nationalities and nonhuman species congregate together in their own little enclaves. Páchi Léi, Swamp Folk, Ahoggyá and Shén are all to be found here (though not in great numbers). There are people from virtually any place in the known world that has a coastline—even the occasional barbarian from as far away as the Nyémesel Isles.

The area surrounding the city is flat and very fertile, benefitting from the fertile silt laid down by both rivers. There are extensive rice paddies, of course, as well as a few specialist crops that are grown almost exclusively in this region.

Away from the city walls the rural population is fairly dense at some seventy people per square kilometer, with towns and villages scattered about the area. Because of the nature of the crops, the peasants here tend to be somewhat better off than their cousins elsewhere in the Empire.

These are some of the principal clanhouses and buildings of the city:

1. Clan of Sea Blue The traditional lords of the south, tracing their ancestry back to the Bednálljan royal family. Many members are highly-placed bureaucrats, army officers and priests.

2. Clan of the Golden Bough A southern noble clan with Engsvanyáli roots. It has strong influence in the bureaucracy, and locally many clan-members are high in the Palace of War.

3. Clan of the Golden Sunburst Another Engsvanyáli noble clan, even more aristocratic than Golden Bough. The local lineages are especially wealthy, and its members prefer to exercise power through patronage and indirect influence rather than seeking public office.

4. Clan of the Might of Ganga A noble clan with strong links to the priesthoods of Belkhánu, Avánthe, Thúmis and Hnálla.

5. Clan of the Cloak of Azure Gems A noble clan who trace their history back to Ksárul’s officers at the Battle of Dormorón Plain. Some members worship Hrú’ú.

6. Clan of the Blade Raised High Descended from the palace guards of Engsvanyáli times, this Karakán-worshipping clan is strongest in the mid-west.

7. Clan of the Jade Diadem Another noble clan containing many city officials. Most members are followers of Dlamélish and Hriháyal.

8. Clan of the Rising Sun A high clan comprising upper class merchants and some minor landed nobles.

9. Clan of the White Crystal A venerable Jakállan clan with houses right up the Missúma river.

10. Clan of the Joyous of Vrá Descendents of the old Vrayáni nobility, principally devoted to Hnálla, Belkhánu and Thúmis. This clan maintains a legion (the Third Imperial Slingers) and also includes many medium-level priests and bureaucrats.

11. Clan of the Staff of Beneficence A small clan of high status whose members revere Thúmis and Keténgku. Contains many wealthy physicians, apothecaries and scholars.

12. The Council of the Clans A kind of guildhall used for meetings of the mercantile clans when thrashing out pricing agreements. Various celebrations are also held here, in particular the fertility rituals of the temple of Avánthe.

13. The Shipyards of Hagárr The base for two cohorts (800 men) of the Squadrons of Tlanéno the Steersman. There are also several commercial and Imperial shipyards, which produce both sea-going and river vessels.

14. Clan of the Emerald Girdle A prestigious land-owning clan whose main centre of power lies upriver, although there are often members visiting the area because of the large volume of trade they are involved in. Thus the clanhouse has only a dozen permanently resident members, but with staff and accommodation sufficient to support up to fifty more.

15. Palace of Jedusáne Tlakotáni See Notable Personalities below.

16. Clan of the Standing Stone A high clan which maintains its own legion: the Second Imperial Slingers, based in the city of Úrmish. Members of the clan include priests, bureaucrats, soldiers and farmers.

17. Blue Kirtle Clan A medium-status clan devoted to Avánthe. Locally the clan specialises in winemaking, though some members are priests and bureaucrats.

18. Clan of Sweet Decay A Sárku-worshipping clan of medium status, but with only one house in the whole empire. They specialize in the distillation of fine brandies from másh-fruit brought down from the hills near Tumíssa. The clan have a secret method for treating the fruit on its journey south that imparts particular qualities to the flavour of the liquor obtained. The purists of Tumíssa insist that it is not truly másh brandy, but this lighter decoction is more to southern tastes, and people will pay a hundred Káitars for a bottle of the best vintages. Másh brandy is not the clan’s only product; they also distil dátsu and brew ngálu (wine).

19. Clan of the Shaded Garden A medium-status clan who brew and serve wine and faóz (rice-beer). The clan maintains public rooms where lower-class patrons can sit and drink, and a suite of guest chambers for more distinguished guests.

20. Clan of the Moon of Evening A medium-status clan specializing in trade. The Yarísal lineage is famous for its wood carvers.

21. Green Malachite Clan A clan with strong maritime links whose members include sailors, fishermen and rice farmers.

22. Clan of the Collar of Bronze A wealthy but low-status clan devoted to the transport and sale of slaves.

23. Clan of the Green Tattoo Another slavers’ clan, but not so wealthy as the Collar of Bronze because their warrant permits only the sale of "foreign persons brought from overseas".

24. Clan of the First Moon A medium-status mercantile clan. Some lineages have links to the Palace of Foreign Lands.

25. House of the Pleasant Hour This is part of the Temple of Dlamélish. A trained priest or priestess can be engaged for anything between 1 and 100 Káitars, depending on skill, comeliness and the services required.

26. Clan of the Ripened Sheaf A prosperous middle-status clan devoted to farming and rural crafts. Smaller clanhouses are found in almost every village in these parts.

27. Clan of the Red Flower A medium-status clan involved in shipping and foreign trade.

28. Armory of the Red Eclipse This is the house of a small local clan specializing in the production of functional but unelaborate arms and armor. (The clan includes artisans who are able to work in iron and steel.)

29. Pyramid Tomb of Prince Bekundráne This is the largest pyramid in the necropolis. Bekundráne was the third son of Ssírandar II, who was killed in a rebellion by the people of Ngála, a ruined city some way to the southwest of Pála Jakálla. The tomb later fell into a state of serious disrepair, although it was not looted owing to a rumoured curse. It has recently been restored to some of its former glory by Májjaq Skendrúzhzha.

30. Tower of Tanmrúktu the Astronomer

31. Headquarters of the Omnipotent Azure Legion

32. Weapon School of Makkúdzo the Salarvyáni Unsurprisingly for a Salarvyáni-run school the specialty is Arruché (sword &-dagger fighting), in which Makkúdzo is an acknowledged master. Other noble weapon-styles are also taught. Makkúdzo’s prices mean that his school tends to be the preserve of the upper classes, but he has been known to take on the occasional promising but poor student at reduced fees. (Price for a two-hour lesson: 15 Káitars with Makkúdzo himself, 10 with a junior instructor.)

33. Gladiator School of Panú’ish Ketlán of Ssa’átis Panú’ish is a former gladiator who made his fortune in the Hirilákte (dueling arena/circus) in Jakálla. His sponsors, the Clan of the Blade Raised High, set him up with this school after his retirement. Although his primary interest is in the training of gladiators for the Hirilákte, he can be prevailed upon to give private instruction. (A two-hour lesson costs 5 Káitars.)

34. The Palace of the Realm The largest of the four bureaucratic Palaces in the city, overseeing local taxes, trade, civic upkeep and law enforcement.

35. The Palace of Ever-Glorious War Deals with recruitment, supply, the Sákbe guard units and maintenance of the city walls. (The units of the Squadrons of Tlanéno the Steersman who patrol the river report here, not to the Palace of the Realm.)

36. The Palace of Foreign Lands Responsible for customs, foreign trade and shipping, and diplomatic relations.

37. The Palace of the Priesthoods Responsible for temple tithes, public rituals and relations between the priesthoods and the state. The ecclesiastical courts are located here.

38. The Hirilákte Because of the gladiator school there is a healthy level of activity at the arena, giving Panú’ish’s pupils a taste of the big time before moving them on to the arenas of the great metropolises.

39. The Citadel of Hágarr This citadel is of Bednálljan architecture, very solid and not particularly attractive. Its one claim to fame is that it has never fallen to a siege. That at least is what the locals claim, and certainly it has not happened in the history of the Second Imperium. It is used as a warehouse for essential supplies and any imported goods destined for the Imperial Coffers at Avanthár. This leaves a lot of unused space, most of which is left prepared for use as barracks in case Imperial troops should be billeted in the city.

40. The Isle of Torment The prison for those convicted by both Imperial and civil courts. The guards comprise two Semétl (40 men) of the Legion of Kétl.

41. Mansion of Donmikáyel hiGángasa See Notable Personalities below.

Foreigners’ Quarter

42. The Palace of Winds Rest-house for foreigners of royal or noble status. Prices range from 50-100 Káitars per day.

43. The Tower of the Blue Dawn Rest-house for foreigners of high status. Costs 20-50 Káitars a day.

44. The Courtyards of Hirkáne Rest-house for foreigners of upper-middle status. Costs 10-20 Káitars a day.

45. Foreign merchants "guild"

46. Ahoggyá enclave A high wall ameliorates the rank smell emanating from these thatched log-built abodes.

47. Shén enclave A high wall protects the faint-hearted from any sight of these terrifying creatures.

48. House of the Fulfilment of Dreams This bawdy house is owned by Majjáq Skendrúzhzha and run by his brother-in-law, Zékkumet Ssámadan. They cater for all purses and tastes. Given enough time, Zékkumet will procure any type of pleasure or perversion his clients can afford. (The Temple of Dlamélish receives a 25% cut of the profits in return for allowing the House to remain open.)

49. Hostel of Buzhúnmra Rest-house for foreigners of middle status. Costs 1-10 Káitars a day.

50. Fazhzhá’s House of Repose Rest-house for those of lower-middle status. Costs 1-20 Hlásh a day.

51. The Buzzing Domicile Rest-house for those of low status. Costs 1-20 Qirgáls a day.

Notable Personalities

Lord Jedusáne Tlakotáni (aged 45, status 20) The great-great-grandson of the 56th Emperor by a series of younger sons. He is an affable man who spends his time studying the history of the Imperium and dallying with his concubines. His income derives from large estates near Jakálla. Recent events have made Jedusáne a rallying standard for various discontented factions, since he is potentially a candidate for a future Kolumejálim (literally "Emperor-choosing") if the Emperor were to die childless (in which case all Tlakotáni have the right to compete except for previous princes who have already renounced the Gold.)

Lord Bedrántu hiSegutháne (aged 67, status 25) Governor of Pála Jakálla. A traditionalist, elder of the Clan of Sea Blue, shrewd politician and stalwart member of the Royalist faction. This posting is effectively a retirement sinecure for him after a distinguished diplomatic career. He rules the city with a rod of iron, dealing harshly with any who disturb its harmony.

Major Taimoshétl hiSukándar (aged 52, status 18) Local commandant of the Omnipotent Azure Legion. He is a former soldier who served in the Legion of Ever-Present Glory under General Kéttukal. He treats this appointment extremely seriously, as it is the first time he has held political office. He is a member of the Red Sword clan (in which the Sukándar family is strongly represented) although originally of the Red Star clan.

Majjáq Skendrúzhzha (aged 35, status 12) An extremely fat Salarvyáni merchant who is the head of the "guild" of foreign merchants in the Foreigners’ Quarter. He made his fortune in the shipping of rare woods and spices. He is the most influential foreigner in the city and is invited all the smart social functions. He has committed a good deal of his wealth towards the maintenance of the Imperial Fleet in Pála Jakálla and to various civic works.

Bénshatun hiZhámek (aged 28, status 10) The local Dlantú (Clan Chief) of the Clan of the Moon of Evening. He is extremely youthful for a Clan Chief, a situation which has come about because of the death in an epidemic of all the senior members of his lineage. He keeps a very high profile, hosting regular feasts to celebrate one event or another. These are regularly attended by most of the influential members of the upper-middle class.

Lord Donmikáyel hiGángasa (aged 25, status 15) Eldest son of the Chief of the Clan of the Might of Gánga in Pétris Layóda. He is currently District Commandant of the Temple of Hnálla in Pála Jakálla. He lives in a small mansion close to the Tower of Tanmrúktu with his two wives and two children. A poet of mediocre talent, he owns an extensive library of original editions of some of the standard works.

Tanmrúktu the Skywatcher (age unknown; status unclear) A foreigner who has been around for so long that nobody can remember where he came from originally. He lives in a high tower atop the highest of the city’s hills. Candles can be seen burning in the windows of the tower long into the night. He is one of the most respected astrologers in the empire. Although he can only rarely be prevailed upon to cast horoscopes, he does produce charts for important occasions such as the birth of Imperial heirs. His methods of casting are somewhat different from the standard Engsvanyáli routines, but he seems to come up with similar results.

Kornámu hiVitéshmai (aged 26, status 9) A minor scion of the Golden Sunburst Clan who is employed as bodyguard by Lord Jedusáne Tlakotáni. He is an exponent of the hlèpurdál (two weapon) school of fighting, using not Arruché but a style he developed himself.

Lord Parshurái hiQolyélmu (aged 50, status 26) The local Chief of the Clan of the Blade Raised High. Rather plump, he looks young for his age and has many friends among the priestesses of Dlamélish and Hrihayal.

Dáusek hiParúdar (aged 60, status 26) The Chief of the Jade Diadem clan. He is a worshipper of Dlamélish and a renowned sorceror. He is always accompanied by two exquisitely beautiful female slaves who wear torcs, not of the customary bronze, but of steel.

Paránda hiSsanyúsa (aged 34, status 12) This redoubtable woman married into the Clan of the Cloak of Azure Gems. When her husband died she took Aridáni status and now involves herself in clan business. She is a worshipper of Avánthe and spent four years in the Legion of Lady Mrssa.

Korazánu hiVríddi (aged 30, status 15) A well known local duelist who has a reputation for issuing challenges to opponents who have virtually no chance of winning. He is overbearingly arrogant (like most Vríddi) and gives the impression of extreme ruthlessness. When he chooses, however, he can seem as charming as Lord Ksárul himself.

Fasharángga the Neck-Breaker (aged 22, status 4) Nobody is quite sure of the origins or nationality of this gladiator. He was trained at the school of Panú’ish Ketlán, and is now under the patronage of the Clan of the Might of Gánga. He is famed for his utter savagery in combat; in one bout he almost tore his opponent’s head from his shoulders. He has been to Jakálla and Béy Sú for bouts. He is immensely powerfully built, and by no means as stupid as his demeanor might suggest.

Ceremonies and holy days

1st Hasanpór: New Year’s Day is celebrated with feasts and gift-giving.

2nd Shápru: A procession from the Council of the Clans, by way of the temples and the four Palaces, to the Governor’s Palace marks the legendary date of the founding of the city.

25th Didóm: The Litany of Noble Deeds takes place at the temple of Karakán; a traditional date for youths to take their adult name.

3rd Langála: Feasts and elegant parties celebrate the Summer Solstice.

9th Drénggar: The Enhancement of the Emerald Radiance in praise of Dlamélish.

5th Firasúl: Autumn Equinox (also Shén New Year)

1st-10th Halír: Harvest festivals.

You can get lots more of this stuff on the excellent Tekumel website and you can get loads of cool Tekumel RPG stuff at Tita's House of Games. You should sell any other roleplaying books you have and buy these. (Really, I'm not kidding - do it now. If you're still not sure, take a look at the elevator pitch of Tekumel here.)

Global conquest

A couple of people asked about whether the Fabled Lands 2nd edition books would be available in Canada, and the answer is yes. You can order them for CDN$9.16 each, just search on Amazon.ca for "Fabled Lands 1: the War-Torn Kingdom" etc. And in Germany and France for 8.99 euros from Amazon.de and Amazon.fr respectively. I don't know about Australia and NZ yet, but we're looking into it.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Ahem

The first four new edition FL books are now available for pre-order on Amazon.com. Need I say more?

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

It's a fair cop

This campaign outline for Professor M A R Barker's world of Tekumel originally appeared in The Eye of All-Seeing Wonder #3 (spring 1994).

Keeping the Peace
A campaign featuring members of the Pala Jakálla police


Given a free choice of character background, most players opt to be members of the nobility. This is the approach advocated by Professor Barker himself in Adventures on Tékumel, and it is undeniably the easiest course if the group wants to play adventurers of the traditional sort. Wealth gives noble characters more individuality and freedom of action, and they are more likely than other social classes to fraternize with others not of their own clan.

But that is not the only option. For the middle and lower classes, individual aspiration is less important than the needs of the clan as a whole. Player groups who are willing to try something a little bit more challenging will get a lot out of playing characters who are authentic Tsolyáni. This means characters who live and work beside their clan-cousins. Kinship forms a bond which will hold the group together and generate plot-threads throughout the course of the campaign.

This article sets out a basis for a campaign in which the players are united by being both clan-cousins and members of the Pala Jakálla city militia.

The boys in blue

The city militia of Pala Jakálla comprises a single cohort of 400 troops. While not having the status of a regular army unit, the militia is constituted along army lines, its official designation being the 18th Cohort of the First Jakasha Provincial Militia.

The militia captain is Daranai hiSarashkü of the Clan of the Moon of Evening. Daranai reports to an 8th Circle bureaucrat in the Palace of the Realm (the effective "major" of the militia) who in turn reports through the Palace Head to the Governor. A small cadre within the police is detached for the gathering of intelligence. This group (which the player-characters are destined to join) reports directly to Slegu hiVorusel, a lieutenant of the Omnipotent Azure Legion.

The campaign begins with a pilot episode in which the characters are still serving as ordinary members of the militia. This introduces them to the background and lets them get a feel for what their job has so far entailed. In the course of this adventure, they are co-opted to Lt Slegu’s unit—the equivalent of being re-assigned from traffic duty to the US Marshals office.

The cast list

Eight player-characters are provided, with preset skill-levels. Players should roll their own attributes, rerolling any score that is not appropriate. (They are of course free to change the characters’ names if the ones provided do not appeal.) These characters are about 20 years old at the start of the campaign. All except Gurrekai Mreshsha are members of the Clan of the Red Flower. The first three characters listed are only peripherally attached to the militia and, with fewer opportunities for derring-do, would suit more thoughtful and experienced players.

Korenoi hiLaumek (status 6) is a junior magistrate of the 5th Circle attached to Lt Slegu’s office. This role would suit a thoughtful player who might enjoy some extra intriguing between regular game sessions. He must have Reasoning of at least 15. Having been educated at a temple school he gets the appropriate skills as well as the following: Administrator 4, Calligraphy 3, Etiquette 9, High Society 5, Historian 1, Intrigue 5, Lawyer 6, Orator 2, Poet 2, Scribe Accountant 3, Theologian 1, Tsolyáni 9, and 6 levels in any foreign language(s) of the player’s choice. His regular salary is 30 Kaitars a month, but he has a wealthy patron (Lord Nichevar hiSsanmiren of the Sea Blue Clan) who gives him an additional 30-40 Kaitars a month.

Telüre hiDorusan (status 3) is an Aridani militia member. Her drop-dead gorgeous looks (Comeliness 20) are of the vulnerable "good clan-girl" sort, so her toughness is likely to come as a surprise to anyone foolish enough to give her trouble. She has the police skills listed below, plus appropriate childhood skills.

Vrishemu hiDorusan (status 3) is a former infantryman in the Legion of Mighty Jakálla, which he left after a six-year enlistment because of a lung infection. He must have minimum Strength of 15 and Height of 11, but Stamina now no more than 10. His skills are: Armorer 2, City Lore 5, Etiquette 8, Historian 1, Longsword/axe 6, Merchant 2, Mu’ugalavyáni 2, Physician 2, Polearm 7, Sailor 3, Salarvyani 2, Shipbuilder 4, Soldier 8, Strategist 2, Swimmer 8, Theologian 1, Tsolyáni 8 and Warrior 1. Joining the militia would be beneath him after the distinction of serving in a heavy infantry legion, but Lt Slegu has the perspicacity to see that an ex-legionary could be useful to his team, so Vrishemu will be paid a "consultant’s" salary of 15 Kaitars a month. He also continues to receive a pension from his legion of 8 Kaitars/ month.

Chaizel hiOrutesh (status 4) is from the Red Flower clanhouse in Penom and hence something of an outsider here in Pala Jakálla, where his lineage is not represented. He is a 3rd Circle lay priest employed by the Omnipotent Azure Legion as a scribe, physician and spell-caster. He must have at least Reasoning 13 and Psychic Ability 17. His skills are: Astrologer 1, Bednalljan 2, Demonologist 1, Engsvanyali 2, Calligraphy 4, Etiquette 8, Historian 6, Physician 5, Psychic Sorcerer 5, Theologian 5 and Tsolyáni 8. To these levels, add the skills appropriate for education at a temple school.

Shoretl hiDorusan (status 3) comes from a long and proud line of militiamen. One of his fathers* (now retired) was a police sergeant involved in the arrest twenty-five years ago of the traitor Futharek hiVriddi, who was trying to flee the Imperium by sea. Shoretl has a lot to live up to. He has the standard police skills listed, plus childhood skills.

Bashan hiDorusan (status 3) was rejected by the Squadrons of Tlaneno the Steersman, and only reluctantly joined the militia. He is alert and watchful, often reaching a swift conclusion on the basis of intuition while others are still puzzling over the facts. (Minimum Cleverness and Psychic Ability both 16, but Height no more than 9 - the reason the marines turned him down.) His skills are as listed, plus the player’s choice of childhood skills.

Ssomu hiRanagga (status 2) is the "poor country cousin" of the group, a great hulking young man who has been sent to the city from his home village upriver to make a career in the militia. His lack of status is compensated by his physical attributes (minimum Strength, Stamina and Size all 16). He has the police skills listed, plus childhood skills which should include levels of swimming and hunting.

Gerrekai Mreshsha (status 1 originally) is a Salarvyani employed as a minder by Korenoi hiLaumek. His clan is not represented in Tsolyánu, making him zero status here in Pala Jakálla, but Korenoi knows that he can be useful to have around. He must have Strength, Stamina and Dexterity all at least 11. His skills are: Arruche 4, City Lore 2, Etiquette 7, Foreigners’ Quarter Lore 5, Hijajai (the language of Haida Pakala) 4, Historian 1, Theologian 1, Salarvyani 7, Survival 2, Swimming 4, Thief 5, Tsolyáni 6 and Warrior 3. This role would suit a player with little previous experience of Tékumel.

Life at home

The "core group" of militia characters (Telüre, Bashan, Shoretland Ssomu) naturally know one another very well, having worked together for the last five years. They are also well acquainted with Vrishemu (he is Telüre’s brother and Bashan’s and Ssomu’s cousin) but won’t have seen much of him over the last few years because he was posted with his legion. Prior to the campaign they will have had less to do with Korenoi and Chaizel, but will have seen them now and again around the clanhouse. They may have seen Gerrekai once or twice tagging along with his employer, and on an unmodified Police check they might know a few snippets about him.

All the player-characters except Gerrekai have quarters in the wing of the Red Flower clanhouse that is given over to young unmarried adults.

Drunk & disorderly

The first scenario begins on a sweltering hot summer’s afternoon. The four militia members are walking their beat while chatting to Vrishemu, who has recently left the army. (The other player characters will have to sit this one out, or play NPC patrons of the winemakers’ clan.)

Suddenly a man in a grey and green kilt comes rushing up. On a +5 City Lore check, the characters can identify him as belonging to the Clan of the Shaded Garden, purveyors of wine and beer. He blurts out that there is trouble at his clanhouse and asks them to come at once.

The public rooms of the winemakers’ clan are reached by a doorway directly onto the street. Entering, the characters find a group of about a dozen clanless day-laborers sprawled on mats around a low table directly inside the door. They are obviously very drunk and are laughing and joking loudly. The rear part of the ground floor is a raised section partioned into several open-fronted booths. Various people of low to lower-middle class occupy these, most notably a group of four cadets of the Squadrons of Tlaneno the Steersman who appear to take umbrage at the day-laborers’ rowdy behavior. They are glowering at the laborers and fingering their swords.

A stairway leads up to a balcony where the better-quality private drinking rooms are located. An observant character (probably Bashan) will notice that a tall warrior with the badge of the Sea Blue Clan is standing at the top of the stairs surveying the scene below with stony-faced indifference.

The problem stems from the fact that the day laborers have been working on an annex of the Temple of Vimuhla down the street and today is pay-day. After a long hot day’s work, the beer and wine have hit them pretty hard. Even so they are only being loud, not abusive. Normally there would not be anything to worry about, but the experienced Shaded Garden servants spotted that look in the marine cadets’ eyes that means trouble’s brewing...

What’s eating the cadets (four cousins of the Green Opal Clan) is that instead of the swashbuckling encounters with Hlüss and Salarvyani pirates that their recruiting officer promised, they’ve spent the last four months’ basic training sailing up and down the MiSsúma River. ("No better than lousy cops!" as one of them tactlessly might put it.) The cadets have come straight off duty and have not yet been back to barracks. They are not armored (it’s too hot) but are wearing swords.

In one booth over in the corner sits a heavy-set man with a scarred face. This is Chikor of Meku, a renowned local gladiator. He is of low social status but high prestige because of his public profile. No trouble-maker, he is the sort of dependable fellow who might step in and help the young militiamen if he sees them making a hash of things.

Three private rooms are occupied upstairs. In the first, Lord Goreng hiViridu of the Sea Blue Clan is having a discreet briefing session with six foreign adventurers whom he’s hired to go on a little "antique collecting" expedition into the underworld. Lord Goreng is keeping this quiet because he doesn’t want anyone in Pala Jakálla to suspect how badly his finances have been depleted by his lavish lifestyle. He is seeking a prestigious bureaucratic appointment and cannot afford even a whiff of scandal.

Another private room is being used by an odd couple: Gapraloi hiTetolan, an elderly scribe from the Palace of Foreign Lands, and a young temple prostitute of Hrihayal whom he has engaged for the afternoon. Gapraloi cannot conduct this liaison in his clanhouse because he is afraid of his three wives.

The third suite is occupied by half a dozen priests of Gruganu. The party is being paid for by one of the priests, Hruchak hiYa’anelu, who is visiting Pala Jakálla to conduct some research at the temple library. Since his clan is not represented here, he has been staying at another clan which has friendly links with his own. However, he felt that it would be an imposition to expect his hosts to entertain his friends from the temple, so he has brought them here instead.

The man on the stairs is Lord Goreng’s bodyguard, a tough ex-soldier of the Clan of the Sweet Singers of Nakome. He has no intention of letting anyone into his employer’s room, police or not. The characters actually have no need to go upstairs anyway, so they won’t get any trouble from the bodyguard unless they go looking for it.

The point of this scenario is not for the player characters to have a bar-room brawl. Quite the reverse! They have to demonstrate that they can defuse a tense situation without getting ruffled. Remind them that violence is not the only way to solve problems—a bit of fast talking followed by a Police skill-check often does the job just as well.

The new job

After getting back from the incident at the winemakers’ clan, the characters are making their report to the sergeant at the precinct house when a messenger enters. He exchanges a few words with the sergeant, who tells the characters they are to go with the messenger to the Palace of the Realm. Vrishemu will doubtless assume this doesn’t apply to him, but then the sergeant peers at him and says: "You’re Vrishemu hiDorusan, aren’t you? You’re to go along as well."

They arrive at the Palace of the Realm and are led through the bustling outer hallways, up an imposing marble staircase, along cool hushed corridors to a dark-paneled chamber high up at the back of the building. Here they are kept waiting for hours while scribes bustle in and out of the inner office, along with some very furtive and disreputable-looking types who come and go at intervals. Chaizel might look in at some point, but he can’t enlighten them other than to tell them they’re in the office of Lieutenant Slegu hiVorusel of the Omnipotent Azure Legion.

At last, as the rays of sunset trickle out of the room and a servant comes to light the lamps, Slegu has them called in. Korenoi is here. Slegu doesn’t mince words: they’re being transferred to intelligence work, and that’s it. Korenoi recommended them, so Slegu hopes they measure up. "Report here tomorrow morning," he concludes, gesturing towards the door. As they’re about to leave he adds: "Which of you is Vrishemu hiDorusel? Stay for just a moment, will you."

Slegu goes on to explain the job in a little more detail to Vrishemu. Korenoi has a letter from Vrishemu’s old legion captain which he hands to Slegu to read. Slegu gives a judicious nod. "Police work’s a bit beneath a man with your military record," he says to Vrishemu. "But this isn’t ordinary police work. We deal with Imperial security here." He goes on to explain the deal: Vrishemu will be informally attached to the group on a monthly salary of 15 Kaitars.

First day at work

The characters show up at the Palace of the Realm the next morning to find another sixteen militiamen waiting too, making a full Semetl of twenty in all. They soon ought to realize that Slegu is not going to be a hands-on kind of boss. He emerges from his office long enough to appoint one of the group as sergeant: a canny middle-aged chap named Qurugar hiTlolketh. Then he goes off on other business, leaving Korenoi to explain the first day’s duties.

In case the pitfalls ahead haven’t occurred to the characters, Sergeant Qurugar loses no time clueing them in: "You lads think you’ve landed yourselves a plum job? Not a bit of it! We’ve got important matters to look into, all right—matters of state security and that—but we’re still no more than humble militia. We can’t barge in wherever we like as if we were the Omnipotent Azure Legion. So you’re all going to have to learn a bit of diplomacy, and you’d better learn fast. Fall afoul of some of the people we’ll be investigating and they’ll just stonewall you. Others will have highly-placed friends who’ll be more than happy to bust you back to street-sweeping if you’re not careful."

The lieutenant’s view

Slegu has very little regard for militiamen, who are generally of fairly low status. The characters will have to earn his respect. He likes Vrishemu, thinks he got a raw deal being invalided out of the army, and is careful not to seem patronizing in assigning him to what (in Slegu’s own view, in any case) is a rather demeaning job. He resolves to try to find Vrishemu a more suitable post, but in fact never gets around to it. Slegu’s opinion of Korenoi is that he is reliable and capable, but after all just a pen-pusher.

Along with about a dozen other OAL intelligence operatives, Slegu’s job is to deal with serious matters of Imperial security in and around Pala Jakálla. The idea of assigning a Semetl of the regular militia to special intelligence work came from higher up, and is a pretty half-baked scheme as far as Slegu is concerned. But since it has been left to him to make it work, he’s decided that these militia can at least be of value looking into minor matters and doing preliminary spade-work that would otherwise eat into OAL time.

Slegu will call Korenoi in from time to time to review the group’s progress and assign new tasks. Other than that he leaves them to their own devices, and is often absent for extended periods on missions of his own. While Slegu is away, the day-to-day running of investigations is the responsibility of Korenoi and Sergeant Qurugar.

Perks

People are very far from equal in the eyes of the law. Foreigners who get into trouble might be sold into slavery or taken for use in Imperial work gangs. Low-class citizens can expect a spell in a very unpleasant jail – often with a drubbing into the bargain. The middle classes are likely to bribe their way out of trouble, so a militiaman might get an extra 2-6 Kaitars a month or more on top of his regular salary. The upper classes, on the other hand, will not stoop to dealing directly with the militia, offering their inducements to presiding bureaucrats like Korenoi (who therefore ought to make an extra 3-18 Kaitars a month).

Adventure seeds

The Holy Hawk:
Someone has stolen a küni that the priests of Karakan use to keep sea-birds out of the temple. The High Priest suspects the culprits may be members of the Society of the Emerald and Silver Crown, a secret group in the temple of Dlamelish. If so, the theft would be a breach of the Concordat – an Imperial crime.

The truth is that this is just a matter of internal temple politics, and has nothing to do with the Dlamelish people. Two senior priests were conspiring to withdraw their support for the High Priest’s protégé at the next temple council. The küni overheard the conversation. Recognizing that it might repeat their plans at an inopportune moment, they arranged to have it abducted until after the council meeting.

If the characters start getting close to the truth, the two priests get very jumpy and will do anything necessary to cover themselves. If they’re found out, the High Priest could have them tried by an ecclesiastical court—not for intriguing against him, but for stealing the küni, which is technically the property of the god.

The Coining Caper:
A collector of rare coins complains that he bought some that have been filed down. Tampering with the coin of the realm is an Imperial offence, so Sergeant Qurugar sends them off to investigate. ("We might get a few impalements out of this one, lads," he says, rubbing his hands.)

They trace the coining operation to some Nighted Tower clan-members in the village of Pendara. A successful result? Not quite. The miscreants have been filing coins, true - but only antique coins such as Engsvanyali Suor, not Imperial coinage. This is just a civil offence, requiring them to pay Shamtla (legal compensation) to those of their victims who can be traced. Which just goes to show that you can’t win them all.

The Goodfellas from Gunurum Isle:
A group of low-class Salarvyani have been preying off new arrivals in the Foreigners’ Quarter, demanding money with menaces. This would not normally be a matter of interest even to the regular militia, but one of the gang’s victims was a Livyáni nobleman who is now the friend and guest of a high-ranking official. The intelligence department is therefore being leaned on to do something about it. This is an adventure where Gerrekai gets a chance to shine.

The Honeyed Trap Gambit:
Lieutenant Slegu is convinced that a noblewoman and her friends are implicated in the use of the illegal drug zu’ur but he can’t prove it. His own face is too well-known in such circles, so he tells the characters to go undercover. They are to approach the nobles purporting to be suppliers of the drug and entrap them into making a deal. Doing well in this scenario will put them in Slegu’s good books.

The Tight-lipped Troopers:
A pretty girl of the wealthy Ssanmiren lineage has been raped and badly beaten, leaving her permanently brain-damaged. The culprit is not known and the girl cannot give any account of the attack. But when her fingers are prised open, a medallion of the Legion of Mighty Jakálla is found. Some troopers of this legion having been seen around the city, the characters investigate—only to find that their suspects have returned to barracks.

They follow the suspects to Jakálla. (The referee here gets the opportunity for the old fish-out-of-water routine, Jakálla being a huge metropolis in comparison with Pala Jakálla.) At the barracks they find that they are barred entry. The legion officers insist they’ll conduct their own internal enquiry. If justice (and the Ssanmiren family) are to be served, Vrishemu will have to do some delving of his own. As a former legionary, he can get into the barracks and snoop around—but will he find out something that leads to a conflict of loyalties?

Other episodes

The campaign will get tedious if every session hinges on matters of state security. Think of the campaign as a long-running television show. Not every episode of Buffy is a fight with vampires. A police series like The Shield focuses on the detectives’ private lives as often as on the business of catching crooks.

The Slippery Pole:
This should take place once the players have settled into a routine. Sergeant Qurugar dies unexpectedly following a bout of pneumonia. (Play him with a cough for a couple of weeks before this.) To make matters worse, his death comes in the middle of a very tricky investigation. Slegu is not around, so Korenoi has to appoint a brevet sergeant. (Presumably he will choose one of the player- characters.) This character is in for the hardest week of his career, but if he holds things together then Slegu confirms the promotion on his return.

Putting Their Feet Up:
At the end of a hard week, the characters are relaxing in the Red Flower clanhouse when a longshoreman rushes in with dreadful news. A strange stone idol has been found in the cargo unloaded from one of the clan’s ships.The captain and crew are being held by a Squadron of Tlaneno the Steersman, whose officer suspects the idol of being a Pariah Cult object. If found guilty of diabolism (worship of the Pariah gods) the entire ship’s company could be imprisoned or even executed!

Under Pressure:
The elders of the Red Flower Clan decide it would be a good idea to marry off Talüre and Korenoi. Either can refuse the match, but this might cause resentment back at home —those elderly aunts only think they’re doing their best for the young things, after all. Other player-characters may be asked to "have a word with them." And what if one of the other characters was already carrying the torch for his lovely cousin? There could even be a duel! Here is a potentially touchy situation which could give some fun if played with a light touch.

Dead Shark syndrome

A campaign must remain fresh or it stagnates. After a year of game-time, the player-characters will reach the end of their first term in the militia and must decide whether to re-enlist or seek adventure elsewhere. This is a good point to switch direction.

If the players would prefer the chance to really cut loose, they can go into the clan shipping business and get involved in adventures on the high seas. Alternatively, they might stay in counter-espionage but make the move to being fully-fledged OAL operatives. (They’d have to have performed pretty damned well to merit it, though.) A third option is to have Korenoi elevated to administrator of a rural fief upon reaching 7th or 8th Circle. Since the fief is in a remote region of Do Chaka with a history of rebel activity, he’ll need subordinates he can trust.
POLICE SKILLS

Police characters must have Strength, Stamina and Height all at least 10. After five years’ enlistment, the skills gained are:

Armourer 1
Charage 4
City Lore 5
Lawyer 2
Longsword 4
Livyáni 1
Mu’ugalavyáni 1
Physician 1
Police 7
Salarvyani 1
Warrior 2

These levels include both the professional and "off-duty" skills acquired in early adult life. Note that although police are usually equipped with maces, not swords, the Longsword skill covers both weapons. The Police skill is equivalent to Soldier, but with less emphasis placed on tactics, drilling and legion history. Police skill-checks (often averaged with Cleverness) may be used to spot something wrong, control a riot, placate an angry drunk, identify the drug zu’ur, recall details of old crimes, and so on.

In special circumstances, militia can be equipped with medium plate armor. Most of the time (particularly in the hot southern climate) they wear only medium leather or ordinary clothes with an azure skullcap for identification. Salary is 15 Kaitars a month for an ordinary militiaman, 30 Kaitars/month for a sergeant, and 70 Kaitars/month for a lieutenant.
*In Tsolyanu, as in the rest of the Five Empires, a person's paternal uncles are also considered to be his "fathers".

Monday, 22 November 2010

Nothing's forgotten. Nothing is ever forgotten.

More hot news: Magnum Opus Press have just released In From the Cold, a collection of Dragon Warriors scenarios from the golden age of White Dwarf. (Or should that be the mithril age? Moving on...)

I got my hands on a copy at the weekend and it was worth the wait. This is the last Dragon Warriors book from MOP and they pulled out all the stops to make it a fantastic swansong. Apart from the magnificent cover painting by Jon Hodgson (for me and Oliver, the DW artist) you get Ian Sturrock's recasting of my old "Dealing with Demons" article as a whole new DW character profession, Oliver's "Lone & Level Sands" adventure from the Invaders & Ancients book, Mike Polling's seminal "Key of Tirandor" - oh, and loads of stuff by that guy Morris.

It's not easy to find where to buy it, but UK customers can go to Orc's Nest (hit the link above) or Flaming Cobra. And although I said this is the last Dragon Warriors book from Magnum Opus Press, don't think you've seen the last of 2nd edition DW. Not by a long chalk.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Return to the Fabled Lands this Christmas

We've got a whole slew of great Tekumel material coming up, including campaign backgrounds and scenarios, but I figured you wouldn't want to miss this first ever look at the new edition FL books. (The first edition Book Three in the background shows the new format size.)

The first four books are rolling off the presses right now, and you should be seeing them on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other online stores in a couple of weeks. At only $8.99 each (£5.99 in Britain) they make a pretty good Christmas gift. Or Hannukah, or Yule, or any excuse really!

Friday, 19 November 2010

Tekumel

“THE MOST BEAUTIFULLY DONE FANTASY GAME EVER CREATED…”

It sounds like he's describing a succulent steak, but this was in fact how Gary Gygax introduced Professor M A R Barker's Empire of the Petal Throne game when it was first published in 1975. “It is difficult for me,” Gygax continued, “to envision the possibility of any rival being created in the future.” TSR Inc (in those days still Tactical Studies Rules) were the publishers, so possibly one would want to take a pinch of salt with this particular steak. But they gave EPT the most lavish production of its day: $27.50, equivalent to the cost of the entire set of 2nd edition Dragon Warriors books – or a meal at a Michelin-starred restaurant, if you prefer. It seems like there was a genuine feeling at TSR that in EPT they had something special.

Petal Throne was, in fact, a commercial failure. Mainly this would have been because EPT was a fully realized campaign world which gave it a natural slant towards role-creation and improvisation. In that sense it was probably on the market five years too early. What also didn't help was that no backup material was released, and given that it was nearly three times as expensive as the three D&D starter books at the time, there was little chance that it would pick up any new converts. The game passed into that hideous unlife known as cult status, then TSR (by now more than happy with Greyhawk as a campaign world) sold it to Gamescience, who commissioned Professor Barker to do a new version.

The new game Swords & Glory, consisted of three volumes: the Sourcebook, detailing the world of Tekumel without reference to any rule system; the Players' Book, which has probably the most exhaustive set of role-playing rules imaginable (I do mean that as a backhanded compliment); and the Referee's Book, which was destined never to appear. The Sourcebook was absolutely perfect for a committed referee with a group of gamers already sold on Tekumel. But it lacked the easy-in that EPT’s much more primitive game mechanics (EPT was a D&D variant) had allowed. Nor was it easy to point a new player at any one passage that would give him a potted history of what he knew about the world.

Before long, Tekumel passed to a publisher called Theater of the Mind, who came out with series of gamebooks called Adventures on Tekumel that were supposed to let players learn about Tekumel by growing up and going on a bunch of solo adventures before moving on to a full RPG called Gardasiyal: Deeds of Glory that unfortunately assumed that the guy running the game would have access to other source material, because it was sorely lacking in the flimsy pamphlets in TOTM’s boxed set.

Even back in 1994, releasing an RPG in a box seemed bonkers – and so it proved, as Tekumel sank again, only to be helped out of the waters of Lethe by the Guardians of Order, who published a nice hardback RPG called Tekumel. As the name suggests, they had decided to stop preaching to the choir and actually deliver a straightforward game that didn’t assume you were already a fan.

Such is the history. You ought to have recognized the zealous tones of the true believer by now. EPT was my own introduction to roleplaying games, and I lose no opportunity to recommend it as the single most worthwhile RPG purchase one could make - even to the extent of slipping in plugs for it in my own role-playing books. The assertion I'm making here is nothing less than this: that if your games collection omits EPT and/or Tekumel then you are wasting money on any purchase of straight rules-horses like Pendragon, RuneQuest or Dungeons & Dragons. Now I'll try to explain why.

The "group improvised narrative" concept is basic to EPT. There are indeed underworlds below many of the ancient cities of Tekumel, but they are not intrinsically an important feature of the game. (I first met the lads at old Games Workshop in 1980 to discuss designing an RPG for them, and I mentioned that our role-playing sessions didn't include very much in the way of ‘dungeons’. Expressions of incredulity: “But . . . in that case, what do you do?” Well, er, we roleplay of course.) Barker's primary interest is in the politics and social etiquette of his world, and this is the prevailing theme throughout his rules. The original EPT game began with the players – simple fishermen from the south – arriving in Jakalla harbor in their small boats. Immediately, one is thrown into a bizarre and breathtaking culture: the bewilderment of the player parallels that of the character. Curt officers of the Omnipotent Azure Legion explain that you should remain within the Foreigners' Quarter unless under the patronage of a Tsolyani citizen; if you venture out into Jakalla proper you might easily commit some breach of etiquette, and without the protection of one of the Tsolyani clans you will be given short shrift by the authorities. If you learn fast you might just be able to stay alive. Once you have sufficient wealth and social prestige, you may be able to buy your way into one of the lower clans and petition the Imperial Court for citizenship. That could lie years in the future.

For the moment all you have of value is your boat, and if you sell that it might just pay for a few days in a grubby hotel and an employment notice in the Palace of the Realm. The impoverished and wretched scruffs who stagger along Jakalla wharf, hopefully towards fame and fortune, area far cry even from the roving (well-fed, well-equipped) young bloods of a Glorantha campaign - let alone the armored veterans of a beginning D&D or Dragon Warriors game.

Eventually a patron will contact you (hopefully before your money runs out) and a series of tables then indicate who he/she is and what will be the nature of your employment. The flavor of the game is that you might set out anywhere, with the emphasis on improvisation and free action rather than on set scenarios. An example: one game that I ran to introduce players to EPT went on for an entire day, with a series of ever more complex escapades around Jakalla, without a single reference to rulebook or dice. That kind of thing is of course not unique, and is the way a lot of campaigns are going these days. But this was in the mid-‘70s, when there were very few games that allowed that kind of richness of improvisation.

That is how the game runs, but that is just something that is to be looked for in any good campaign. It is the underlying texture and structure of Barker's world which makes this flow so easily. The rule systems of the original EPT book were derived from D&D, but Barker had actually been playing in a group without rules or referee since Tekumel's inception in the '50s. As a result, Tekumel is fully constructed at a core level rather than being defined by the rules. Glancing at the spells, for instance, it soon becomes clear that there is a correspondence between certain spells and the various Temples (I'm referring to EPT, Barker makes this correspondence explicitly in S&G). This goes rather deeper into the real needs of a functioning society than the rather naive notion of artillery-spells-for-war-gods. A Tsolyani general naturally expects his sorcerer-priests to be adept at battlefield healing as well as mass destruction and intelligence-gathering. Tsolyanu has the appearance of a society that has evolved along real human lines, rather than an artificially-constructed confection like, say, Krynn or Thieves' World.

Barker is an anthropologist, historian and linguist, which perhaps explains the thoroughness and internal logic of his world. That is one side of the coin. The other is that all through his writing it is obvious that an extraordinarily potent imagination is at work. This is not merely a run-of-the-mill fantasy environment but something else. Something which has the capacity to engage the imagination and keep it stimulated. A lesson which any campaign designer could learn from Barker is in his use of archetypes and primary images. As regular readers of this blog will know by now, one of my pet hates is the automatic use of elves, dwarfs, etc, outside their appropriate and effective context. Almost everybody who sits down to hack out a fantasy milieu for a novel or game seems to think they've got to have these critters populating the place or it won't be fantasy. Even Greg Stafford (no dimwit he) did this in the early days of Glorantha, then seemed to regret it and went revisionist on us and turned elves into spaced-out walking vegetables, trolls into Pro-Am fans.

Barker started from another point of departure entirely: Mayan, Aztec, Indian – and others; the sources aren't easy to spot. He has taken a clever approach. Instead of creating fear, aggression, wistfulness in player-characters by means of images that provoke these reactions in the players themselves, Barker provides little nudges that redefine the responses – recreate archetypes in new terms for the PCs. As he says in the first paragraph of EPT: “Players quickly learn to shiver just as much at the sound of chiming and the odor of musty cinnamon as they do at the creaking of Dracula's coffin or the distant bellowing of the Minotaur.” The cues he refers to are the language and scent of the Ssu, an exceptionally horrible alien species with four long lower limbs, bulbous black eyes atop a conical head, and a gray integument that grows in rolls around the creature's skeleton and tends to slough away (producing the musty odor). I'm not doing a Monster Manual bit. The point is that if you look at film of a wolf spider you will see the same beady, baleful gaze and the same eerie stalking motion of the limbs - but Barker, working on a widespread uneasiness to create a frisson in his fantasy world, would never do anything so obvious as simply using giant spiders. The cinnamon smell and the chiming just make sure you're primed for the visceral shock when it comes. This is not mere ‘games mastering', this is direction.

There is a dizzying array of Tekumel products. They're comprehensive, certainly, but the sheer range of choice leaves any outsider wondering where to begin. I’ll just run quickly through the main items and then give my own recommended reading list. Empire of the Petal Throne is the original game. It gives a complete overview of Tekumel (enough to get a campaign up and running) and is consequently quite a good taster. But it’s essentially a D&D variant with emphasis skewed towards dungeon-bashy adventure. For the real thing, you need Swords & Glory: The Tekumel Sourcebook. This is the one with just about everything about the world (including maps), but it has no rules material at all so you miss out on the distinctive Tekumelani magic items such as the Little House of Tranquil Dwelling, the Eye of Joyful Sitting Amongst Friends, the Eye of Triumphant Passage Through Infernos, the Excellent Travelling Volume, etc. etc ...

Swords & Glory: Players' Handbook contains Prof Barker's own rules: quite a complicated system (Barker himself says it's a mix 'n' match selection - he doesn't expect anyone to use everything) but even if you’re going to use another system you must get this book eventually if you want Barker's rules for status, skills, clans and temple promotion (and the tree-branch magic system).

Deeds of the Ever-Glorious gives histories for the eighty-five legions of Tsolyanu, and in doing so builds a picture of the last twenty centuries of Tsolyani civilization. The Book of Ebon Bindings describes some of the demons, or minor deities, of Tekumel. You could work a magic system directly from this, and hundreds of anecdotes make it a great read.

There are two scenario packs – The Tomb Complex of Nereshanbo and A Jakallan Intrigue. Neither of these are by Barker himself, and are not really worth the effort of seeking out. The first is routine and the second, while not without its ingenious touches, is the sort of thing I would expect to handle without any prepared material. The Tsolyani Language comes in two volumes – yes we're into fanatic territory here; only one person I know can read and speak Tsolyani.

Where to start, then? Simplest and most straightforward is the GOO book Tekumel. This has a simple, elegant game system and a comprehensive description of the world, thanks in large part to Patrick Brady, with all the history, mythology and culture you need to run a campaign. As a game Tekumel didn’t get much support, but to be honest the sort of person who is going to enjoy running a Tekumel campaign is probably capable of cooking up their own scenarios and won’t rely on published supplements. Indeed, it’s hard to see how published adventures would be of much use to a good Tekumel campaign, as events should flow so seamlessly from the lives of the specific characters that you never do just plonk down an adventure and expect them to get on with it. Instead, it is the players who tell the referee what they want to do. As it really should be in all roleplaying.

“What kind of a world, then is Tekumel? Socially and culturally, Tekumel is as complex—and as alien to modern thinking—as Byzantium, ancient Egypt, Tenochtitlan, or the India of the Mughals.” – Professor M A R Barker

This is a slightly modified version of a feature I wrote for Imazine #17 (summer 1987). The illustrations are by John Goodier from Deeds of the Ever Glorious.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Creepy crawlies

This scenario (“for Basic Dungeons and Dragons 1st-2nd level characters”) was written by Oliver Johnson and originally appeared in White Dwarf #55 in July 1984. In a way this is its first publication, though, because – well, you see that dark blue-green colour on the map? That was printed behind the text. I don’t imagine one person in ten was able to read it.

Dragon Warriors players will soon spot that I borrowed the culture of the local hunter-gatherers for the “Mungoda Gold” scenario in DW Book Six. I don’t think Oliver ever noticed. There's nothing else especially notable about it - I'm just putting it up here for curiosity value, really - although Oliver's flavour text is always a cut above.

We never played D&D, but it was pretty common for me and/or Oliver to knock off a quick scenario to order for the editor of White Dwarf at that time, who was none other than our old mucker Jamie Thomson. This was probably conceived and written in about two days, and I'm willing to bet that if Oliver playtested it at all it would have been with RuneQuest rules. As I scanned it I was planning to convert the scenario to something else for posting here – but what? Dragon Warriors? RuneQuest? Fie upon it; here it is just as it was written 26 years ago. Make of it what you will!


SPIDERBITEBy Oliver Johnson
DUNGEON MASTER ONLY
This scenario should be virtually read out to the players as it is. Those portions of text that are labelled DM, however, should not be read out and are for your eyes only. The scenario is presented initially for AD&D. The Basic D&D equivalents of AD&D are given in brackets, where necessary. Other information is clearly labelled for Basic.

PLAYERS' INTRODUCTION
You have been employed by Gorling Grislgum, an ageing cleric, to explore an ancient tomb complex located somewhere in the tropical forests to the south of your country. For days your ship has been sailing up the Mosquito River. You passed the last mark of civilisation a week ago, a settlement 200 miles downriver. The jungle on either side of the shimmering river is unnaturally quiet, save for the occasional squawk of a brightly hued parrot or the tortured cries of monkeys. Sometimes at night a ghastly howl will break through the gloom and continue its sad ululation for minutes on end. The river-folk believe these to be the songs of departed souls, but Gorling maintains that they are merely the cries of a sloth.

One morning, you see, set into a thinly wooded basalt knoll protruding from the jungle, a creeper-entwined head staring sightlessly out over the trackless expanse of green.

Gorling comes out on deck. "The head," he tells you, “is a representation of Krakata, who ruled a jungle kingdom here centuries ago. According to legend, his final command was that his head should be carved in rock over the lair of a giant spider. This spider, weaving a cocoon around the king's body, would keep it sleeping until he should one day return to rally his people in times of trouble.

“I think we can discount this legend. All that remains of that jungle civilisation today is a small tribe of savage cannibals who worship the spider-god Hlo-hlo as their totem deity. Like many degenerate peoples, they have woven a tangled web of superstition and folklore that harkens back to former, greater days. However, since the natives of the region believe that Krakata sleeps within the tomb and will one day emerge in all his regal finery, they are extremely hostile towards any strangers. Consequently we must be circumspect.”

The ship is left anchored in midstream with a small crew while Gorling and yourselves row to the bank and disembark on what appear to be the lichen stained stones of an old wharf. The jungle is a thick green curtain in front of you. Every step forward is impeded by choking creepers and the thick boles of trees. You cannot now see the monolith because of the canopy of foliage overhead, but an old track leads in the general direction you wish to go. Gloriously coloured parrots flutter about through shafts of sunlight above you. You can almost believe they mock you with their cries as you set out. The old trail is marked every few yards by weather-worn, moss covered idols on either side.

Gorling Grislgum
5th level Cleric; AC6; HP18; Alignment: Lawful Neutral. Str: 8; Int: 13; Wis: 13; Con: 6; Dex: 8; Cha: 13. Spells: 1st: Bless; cure light wounds x2; sanctuary. 2nd: Hold person; slow poison; spiritual hammer. 3rd: Prayer.
Equipment: Studded leather, shield, hammer, holy symbol, material components, potion of healing.

Gorling might have advanced further in his Temple, but he has always been more interested in his academic pursuits (history, archaeology, etc) than in the rituals and tenets of his faith. He is physically not a brave man, and prefers to leave the business of melee to his hirelings (the PCs) while he assists with his magic. Although many think him just a bumbling, absent-minded old duffer, he actually possesses a shrewd intelligence and tremendous moral courage.
Jungle Encounter Table(roll d20)
1-5: Natives (1-6 kasha + 0-2 ushok, see later)
6: Snake (constrictor [rock python], poisonous [pitviper or spitting [cobra])
7: 1-4 jungle stirges
8-9: 1-4 giant ticks (robberflies)
10: Giant lizard
11-13: 2-8 large spiders
14: Wild boar
15-18: Non-harmful/nuisance encounter (monkeys, parrots brightly patterned dragonflies, etc)
19: Jaguar (tiger)
20: Couatl (sabre-toothed tiger)
The chance of an encounter is usually 25%; check every twenty minutes.


DM: Roll once on the random encounter table for the party's journey to the monolith. This will take them almost an hour of enervating slog in the drenching jungle heat. Any character stepping from the ancient track has a chance (85%; check every 10 feet he moves from the track) of sinking in quicksand. Roll d8 for any character who wanders into quicksand: 1-5, sinks knee deep; 6-7, waist deep; 8, up to the character's chest. A trapped character will sink at 2 feet per round unless thrown a rope. It will take a single character 1-6 segments to pull a sinking colleague to safety.

Any character sinking in quicksand will be attacked by 1-3 giant leeches of the 1 hit dice variety [MM Basic: treat as lowest dice stirge]. The character will not be aware of this until, and if, the leeches wound him and he starts to lose blood. This will then lead to a further, greater threat when the character extricates himself from the quicksand, for the smell of fresh blood will entice down jungle stirges from the upper branches where they bask in the sun. Jungle stirges are treated in most respects as normal stirges except for their appearance – they are noxious, ragged beings with mem¬branous batwings, tinted green by the lichen which clumps their fur.

The path is dotted with mantraps, of which there are three kinds (roll d6):
1-2: 6' pit with wooden stakes atthe bottom; a character will take d6 damage from the fall and d4 from each stake that hits him according to armour class:



AC 10-8: three stakes
AC 7-5: two stakes
AC 4-3: one stake
AC 2: no stakes
3-4: 10' pit with 2-8 vipers at the bottom; a character will take d6 damage f rom the fall itself.
5-6: Snare–a trapped character will be caught by the foot and whipped up to the top of a tree. His comrades will take 1-6 rounds to get him down, during which time he has a 70% chance per round of attracting the attention of 5 jungle stirges unless he specifically states that he is not struggling in the snare.

There is a 25% chance of the character at the front of the party stepping into a trap for every ten minutes they proceed along the track. Once thus warned, the chance of setting off further traps is only 10% every ten minutes.

Finally you reach the edge of a clearing about 35 yards across. The sheer cliffs of the knoll rise up before you on the other side of the clearing. The crudely carved face seems massive at this proximity; the eye slits 80' above the ground appear to be small caves etched into the limestone. It is covered by a thick drapery of creepers. Across the clearing you can see a rough stone altar, and beyond that a large boulder daubed with curious red and mauve glyphs. This apparently blocks a cave entrance. This cave entrance seems to correspond to the mouth of the monolithic stone head.

DM: If the characters enter the clearing without looking around first, they will be attacked by the native guards (who will have surprise) left to watch over this sacred place. If the characters think to investigate the perimeter of the clearing before stepping from the cover of the undergrowth, they will have a normal surprise chance on the native guards.

The group of native guards consists of seven kasha and one ushok (see Natives, later), standing guard in pairs around the clearing -
ushok: AC7; HP8; first level; Move: 12"; No of attacks: 1; Damage: 1-6. (Morale: 9.)
kasha: AC8; HP1, 3,2,6,4,2,2; 0th level; Move: 12"; No of attacks: 1; Damage: 1-6 (club) or 1-3 + poison (dart). (Morale: 7.)


ENCOUNTERS

1: Pit Trap
DM: There is a deep pit covered by thin rush matting behind the altar stone. Anyone running (eg fleeing from the fight with the natives) towards the blocked cave mouth will automatically plunge into this pit–although by rolling dexterity or less on 2d10 they can seize hold of the creepers around the pit’s edge and then drag themselves out again. If a character falls, refer to 10. If the characters are not fleeing from combat they will easily spot the trap and can give the pit a wide berth.
2a: Boulder
The boulder blocking the king's mouth is carved with native glyphs which have been painted in with sticky coloured dyes.

DM: If Gorling is still alive he will be able to provide a halting translation of the glyphs –“Angry ... something… of ancestors ... wait within Krakata's mouth. This glyph daubed in purple is the one corresponding to Krakata's name, by the way.”
A total of 40 strength points is required to roll the boulder aside. The red paint is in fact some vile bacterial culture prepared from the body fluids of jungle stirges. There is a 40% chance if the characters moving the boulder don't take precautions (and a 25% chance if they do) that they will contract a connective tissue disorder which will begin to show after 4-5 days.

(If the boulder is rolled aside:) You are terrified by a loud wailing that issues from the cave mouth. This is followed by the flitting white spectral forms of ancestral spirits racing towards you out of the darkness.

DM: The characters must save vs fear as if cast by a 6th level MU (save vs magic or flee for 6 rounds); this saving throw is at +5, but even if the save is made the effects are equivalent to a scare spell: fall into a fit of trembling – if forced to, will fight at -1. If any characters turn and flee, don't forget the pit immediately behind them – they will forget all about this in their terror. If any characters run into the jungle don't forget that they may blunder into traps, quicksand or random encounters!

The ancestral spirits pose no further threat – once out into the daylight they will flit over the treetops, dissipating with a thin, faint howl as they make their way to their place on the Outer Planes.

2b: Entrance Tunnel
A cavern leads from the mouth into the monolithic head. Primitive paintings of hunting and battle scenes adorn the walls.

DM: If the boulder (2a) is still in place – that is, if the characters are returning by this route after entering the complex via the pit trap (1) –then the spirits will still be trapped here. A swarm of wailing, white figures will surround the party like moths around a light; saving throws must be made as detailed in 2a. However, the spirits do no physical damage, yearning only for egress that they might depart to their ancestral hunting grounds. Panicked characters will thus be pursued down the tunnel to the boulder and harassed by the spirits until they have pushed it aside. These spirits cannot be turned by a cleric because of their fanatical centuries-long desire to escape from this place.

3: Pool ChamberThere is a pool in the centre of this large limestone cavern. The liquid appears to be clear, fresh water.

DM: Anyone remaining within 10 feet of the pool for more than a minute will be subject to a sleep spell (saving throw vs spells allowed). Whether the players fall asleep or not, the surface of the pool will start to come to life and begin to creep and ooze towards any slumbering characters, even¬tually enveloping them completely unless they are woken or moved by their colleagues. It is in fact a giant amoeba.
Amoeba: (for AD&D & Basic) AC9; HP14; HD3; Move: 4"; No of attacks: 1; Its touch acts an acid causing 2-8 points of damage. (Morale: 11.) Because of its amorphous form the amoeba will only take half damage from edged/pointed weapons.

(Once the 'liquid' has left the pool:) A stone urn is now visible on the dry bed of the pool. You can just make out some¬thing brown and shiny inside the urn.

DM: Within the stone urn is a brown onyx amulet in the shape of a squatting demon. The amulet functions as a Scarab of Protection. (Basic D&D: treat as a Ring of Protection.)

4: Ways Up and Down
There is a hole in the ceiling of the tunnel. A piece of rope, made of loosely plaited creepers, leads up into the darkness. A set of steps, hewn from the rock and cluttered with rubble, leads down to the north.

DM: The rope is quite safe if used by no more than one person at a time.

5: Charnel Chamber
You thrust a torch into the room as you climb up. Even before you have seen anything, you notice the horrible stench. The room is littered with gory, half eaten remnants of a savage feast. In the guttering torchlight you see a rough stairway on the far wall; a glimmer of daylight filters through from above!

DM: As the characters climb up in turn, there is a 30% cumulative chance per round that the bull ape sleeping behind a slab of rock to the north will awaken and attack. It will automatically surprise the party as it charges out, bellowing insanely.
Ape: (for Basic&AD&D) AC7; HP9; HD1 + 1; Move: 9"; No of attacks: 3; Damage: 1-3/1-3/1-4. (Morale: 9.)
If the fight goes on for more than 3 rounds then the rest of the ape tribe in 6 will hear the noise and descend the steps from their lair to join in.


6: Ape Lair
Sunlight streams in through shafts leading to the colossal head's eyes. On a granite block in the centre of the room lies a large golden facemask studded with shards of coloured volcanic glass. The sunlight falling on this throws extraordinary patterns of scintillating colour on the limestone walls.

DM: This is the lair of the apes, and if they have not already descended to battle the party they will be encountered here.
Apes: (Basic&AD&D) AC7; HP5,5,4,6,3; HD1 + 1; Move: 9"; No of attacks: 3; Damage: 1-3/1-3/1-4. (Morale: 7.)


The face mask was part of the royal regalia of Krakata. It is an object much venerated by the apes, who will fight to the death to retain it. The mask is worth about 200gps in a purely financial sense, but it may cost the characters their lives if left behind (see Getting Out Alive, below). Because of its size and shape, it has an effective encumbrance value of 45 (equivalent to 450gps weight).

If the characters leave by means of the eye slits then the climb to the ground is an easy one because of the vines covering the monolith's face.

7: Krakata's Treasure
The room is strewn with earthenware urns, tribal artefacts, animal-skin shields and barbed spears of superior workmanship to those used by the natives outside.

DM: The guardian of this treasure is a Necrophidius (Fiend Folio):
AC2; HP8; HD2; Move: 9"; No of attacks: 1; Damage: 1-8 + paralysis.
For Basic D&D, the guardian is a crystal living statue(see the rulebook for further information), set here when the monolithic head was built:
AC4; HP10; HD3; Move: 10"; No of Attacks: 1-6/1-6. (Morale: 11; immune to sleep.)

The main treasure can be found within the urns, and consists of the following:
(i) A bone wand which, when waved over a surface or between two objects, will cause a layer of cobwebs to appear magically. These webs are only as strong as a normal cobweb – they will not entrap a being (except for flies, of course). The usefulness of the item to the characters will lie in its trickery value – to deceive an enemy into thinking that a certain chest had not been opened for years, perhaps, or in covering an archway so that pursuers didn't think anyone had passed through it.
(ii) A jade bust. There is a bowl-shaped depression in the plinth of this artefact, and if a character allows 1 hp worth of his blood to fall into the bowl, the bust will open its lips and speak cryptically of future events in a manner equivalent to an augury. The device will work each time it is given blood, up to a maximum of three times a day.
(iii) Numerous items of jewellery worth some 15,000 silver pieces.


8: The Web of Hlo-hloA frieze of cured animal skins is stretched across the northern end of this vast subterranean cavern, which accommodates a thick-stranded web of stupendous proportions. The upper moorings of the web are invisible in the darkness, but you are able to see some of the pale objects caught in it. To your horror you realize they are human bones. Enshrouded in a cocoon at the centre of the web, some 30 feet above you, is what appears to be a purple bundle. Gold gleams dimly from it in the torchlight.

DM: The “bundle” is in fact the mummified body of King Krakata, protected by the giant spider Hlo-hlo which has for centuries been worshipped as a god. The purple shroud in which Krakata is wrapped is the other item the characters will probably need in order to survive [see Getting Out Alive]. The gold ornaments on his body are worth 120gps.

To dislodge the body, one or more characters will need to climb up into the web. Anyone but a thief or assassin has a 10% chance per round of climbing of becoming enmeshed in the web, and will then need 2-10 rounds to cut or burn the strands away. Perhaps surprisingly, a character under spider climb (AD&D only) cannot become enmeshed.

As soon as anyone touches the web – it is next to impossible to cross the floor of this chamber without doing so–the spider will edge down from an upper recess, scuttle across the web and drop onto anyone climbing it. Allow 3 rounds before anyone notes its presence.
Hlo-hlo the Spider: AC4; HP14; HD4+4; Move: 3" (12" in web); No of attacks: 1; Damage: 2-8. (Morale: 10.)


9: Spider's Eggs
The air here is warm, damp and stifling. There is a cluster of pale, translucent spheres lying together on the ground. Bringing your torches close to one, you can make out a squirming spidery form within.

10: Bones
DM: Unless characters have climbed down using the creepers or else come here from 9, they will have fallen 30 feet and thus taken 3d6 falling damage. This is reduced by 1d6 if the falling character lands on the neat pile of human bones stacked at the bottom of the shaft (85% chance of this), as the bones will break his fall. Some ceremonial robes and necklaces on the skeletons seem to suggest that these people have been the victims of some kind of ritual sacrifice to the 'god' Hlo-hlo.

Getting Out Alive (For the DM only)By the time the party come to leave Krakata's tomb complex, the rest of the native tribe will have learned of their presence – either directly from surviving guards or by discovering the slaughtered bodies around the monolith. A large force will come to deal with any who manage to survive the tomb and consist of the witchdoctor, eight ushok and twenty kasha:
Shaman: 7th level cleric with some MU spells; AC7; HP14; Alignment: Neutral; fights as a 2nd level owing to age and consequent infirmity.
Spells: 1st: Cause/cure light wounds; spider climb; cause/ remove fear. 2nd: Web; hold person; silence 15'radius. 3rd: Speak with dead; cause/cure disease. 4th: Poison/ neutralize poison.
For Basic D&D, the shaman is a 6th level magic-user/ cleric, other stats as AD&D. His spells are: 1st level: Cause/ cure light wounds; cause/remove fear. 2nd level: Web, hold person, silence 15' radius, levitate. 3rd level:
Dispel magic.
8 ushok warriors (for Basic & AD&D)
AC 8; HP 7,7,8,9,7,7,7,8; 2nd level; Move 12"; No of attacks: 1; Damage: 1-8 obsidian club. (Morale 9.)

20 kasha warriors (Basic & AD&D)
AC 8; HP 6,3,3,1,6,2,1,4,3,3,4,1,6,2,3,5,2,2,5,5; 0th level; Move: 12"; No of attacks: 1; Damage: 1-6 (club) or 1-3 plus poison (dart). (Morale: 7.)


This probably looks like the end of the party but there is an easy way out, if the characters recall what Gorling told them about Krakata's prophesied return from the dead. By donning the purple robe and golden facemask, a character can step out of the monolith and simply by gesturing can cause the natives to prostrate themselves in adoration. It will be simple then for the party to walk past the natives, who wait patiently to hear the commanding voice of their revenant king, and hurriedly return to the ship. Using this stratagem to escape should be worth at least as much as actually overcoming all the natives in a straight fight– half of the experience going to the character(s) who had the idea in the first place, and the other half going to the single individual who has the courage to actually go out and try it.

After returning to civilisation, Gorling (if alive) will establish the intrinsic value of all items and artefacts brought out of Krakata's tomb and pay the surviving characters 10% of this amount to divide between them, as a bonus for the danger they encountered. This will be in addition to the regular amount he is paying them, of course. If Gorling is dead, the division of spoils is up to them, though they will have to pay the sailors if they wish to return home.

Native warriors

Most of the warriors of the tribe are 0th level, primarily hunters whose favoured weapons are clubs and dart javelins. (Against human opponents they will coat these darts with an aromatic resin; anyone struck by the dart will have to save against poison at +3 (Basic: +6) or lose 4hp per round until they are either dead or else saved by a neutralize poison spell.) They are called in their own tongue kasha.

The special champions, or ushok, of the tribe are fighters of 1st level or higher. They are specialised warriors of the tribe in its dealings (ie battles) with outsiders. They disdain the use of missile weapons and the trapping skills which the hunter-warriors develop, preferring to fight their enemies at close hand with poison-tipped spear or shield and obsidian-edged club. Ushok are readily distinguished from the lower-status kasha by their hair (which they wear plaited into eight thick strands which hand down to their shoulders), the spidereye war paint design and the russet, furry cloaks which are designed to spread out into eight sections when the ushok is leaping and running through the jungle towards his prey.

Special note: The poisoned darts used by the kasha are quite effective at a distance (as in clearings, from boats, etc) but are almost useless in thick undergrowth. The close proximity of the trees makes it difficult to get a clear shot in. Apply a “to hit” penalty of -3 at medium and -7 at long ranges. A clever party will realize this and use it to tactical advantage.