Sunday, May 20, 2012

Dragon by Dragon ... December 1976

The Dragon closed out 1976 with an issue dedicated to The Empire of the Petal Throne - they even added 4 pages to the magazine to handle all the goodness.

Full disclosure ... as long as I've been playing D&D and learning about it, I still know relatively little about MAR Barker's baby. I know the basics and the general history, but it's always seemed like a setting that required immersion to really grok.

The December issue kicks off with what we would now refer to as a campaign log by the man himself, MAR Barker, updating folks on the going's-on of Tekumel (really a follow-up to a similar article published in the final issue of "The Strategic Review". I mostly found this one interesting because it serves as a glimpse into another style of campaign play. Early in the aricle, Barker explains the need (or at least desire) to coordinate the various campaigns in Tekumel to avoid "parallel universe" development. Each DM back in the day really WAS his or her campaign. When you played with a DM, you visited his little universe. I think you'll find a similar sentiment in the FLAILSNAILs concept.

Next up - James M. Ward provides some notes on Androids on the starship Warden. The androids, it seems, play the role of doppelgangers, taking positions of power among the human tribes and keeping them in conflict with the mutants so that the androids are free to continue their drive for power.  I dig that he refers to them as the "chemical men". I also dig that the "history" of the androids was supplied by "Emaj the fat mutant philosopher as translated by Yra the Wise." Honestly, if your not making weird plays on your name and inserting them liberally into your campaign, you just ain't doin' it Old School.

Steven Klein provides a random encounter table for the foreign quarter of Jakalla, a city of Tekumel. In essence, this isn't much different from Gary's city encounter table in the old DMG. Watch out for the priests of the Goddess of the Pale Bone!

MAR Barker now chimes in again with notes on war gaming in Tekumel. Like Gygax and Arneson, Barker was a war gamer, and here he gives a report on the Battle of the Temple of Chanis: 2020 A.S. as a way of introducing people to the military thinking on Tekumel. He introduces the idea of "Little War" battles that are like duel battles and "Great War" battles that involve hundreds and thousands of troops. The idea of battles that mostly revolve around challenges between individuals in the two forces reminds me of stories from Celtic antiquity, and it's not a bad way to handle some mass battles in your game without having to deal with actual war games. The length of the invented history of this battle (well, probably play report from his game) suggests how immersed people were in the game ... it's a long article to read just to learn about something that never actually handled.

The Creature Feature presents two creatures from Tekumel, the Mihalli and Vriyagga, both getting some nice color art. In S&W terms, they would have the following stats:

Mihalli: HD 3; AC 1 [18]; Atk1 weapon; Move 15; Save 14; CL/XP 5/240; Special: Magic spells, shape-change, magic items.

The Mihalli were non-humans that had subterranean spy facilities that were wiped out with nuclear fission bombs. Only a few now persist. They are hermaphroditic humanoids with skin that ranges from dull green to coppery brown that signify their class - green for lower, coppery brown for upper. They are shape-changers who are sometimes given away (20%) by their opalescent red eyes. All are magic-users and most have magic items, including the wonderfully named Ball of Immediate Eventuation, which can fire energy bolts, create defense shields against non-magical projectiles (I think we call it shield these days), cause their users to become invisible and produce clouds of poisonous gas. They come in various strengths, indicated by their colors.

Vriyagga, Small: HD 10; AC 1 [19]; Atk 4 tentacles (2d6 + constrict) and bite (1d6 + poison); Move 8; Save 5; CL/XP 12/2000; Special: Tentacles up to 10 feet long.

Vriyagga, Medium: HD 15; AC 1 [19]; Atk 4 tentacles (4d6 + constrict) and bite (1d8 + poison); Move 12; Save 3; CL/XP 17/3500; Special: Tentacles up to 20 feet long.

Vriyagga, Large: HD 25; AC 1 [19]; Atk 4 tentacles (6d6 + constrict) and bite (1d10 + poison); Move 15; Save 3; CL/XP 27/6500; Special: Tentacles up to 40 feet long.

These babies are excellent - two giant wheels with knotted muscles around a central spoke, brain pans hanging from that with weird faces from which extend four tentacles covered in suckers and a mouth lined with poisonous, purple feelers. They have ebon eyes that can see in the dark. The tentacles are very tough (AC 2 [17] to sever). Vriyagga enjoy the taste of juicy humans over the pale shrimp-things who they normally dine on.

Gary Jaquet now gives us "Miscellaneous Treasure, Magic, Weapons, Artifacts and Monsters - Additions, Deletions, Omissions, Corrections, Changes, Variations and Otherwise Confusing Alterations" etc.  This is a comedy bit with things like Creeping Crud (resembles cigarette butts, crushed Fritos, spilled Dr. Pepper, sweat from players' foreheads and referees' dice rolling arm, pencil shavings and old character cards), dice lice, etc.

Jerry Westergaard presents some fiction - "Roads from Jakalla". This, along with the other articles by Barker, do a good job of presenting the setting.

Another side bar presents the old "Generals can do X, Colonels can do Y ... Privates can do everything" bit, only starting with 22nd level wizards and working down to Referees.

Wargaming World - no author credit - examines the new miniature lines for EPT and D&D. The reproductions of the miniatures are almost impossible to see, so, not much help really.

Page 29 does have an interesting bit - maybe the first appearance of Appendix N. Titled "Fantasy/Swords & Sorcery: Recommended Reading From Gary Gygax". It goes from Poul Anderson's Three Hearts and Three Lions to Roger Zelazny's Jack of Shadows (etal), Lord of Light and Nine Princes of Amber series.

Fineous Fingers gives a nice demonstration of "climbing sheer walls" for thieves.

Page 31 gives the percentile chance for obtaining an "Eye" as treasure in EPT, and the issue then ends with some pictures (boy were they hard to reproduce back in the day) of a scale model of the Temple of Vimuhla.

Not a bad issue if you want to wade into Tekumel and test the waters, and if you can't find something to do with the Vriyagga, you just aren't trying.


  1. If you want to learn more about the Petal Throne... Well, the books are quite hard to find. However, there is a great site sponsored by the Tekumel foundation at I was lucky enough to get the Guardians of Order book from a buddy and the amount of material is astounding.

    Always glad to hear someone else being hipped to the Petal Throne... I remember it from my early days and only after reading the collected history do I see how much I was personally influenced by it.



  2. Replies
    1. Thank you sir - I'll do the same for you in my next such post.


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