Monday, February 18, 2013

Raid On The Temple of Vimuhla

"Raid on the Temple of Vimuhla"
(Four of the seven players)

Photo copyright 2013 John Everett Till

Yes, that's a copy of Guardians of Order's Tekumel: Empire of the Petal Throne RPG and map on the game table. But if you look carefully at the character sheets, you will see that this game session used the FATE Core system. Was this the first FATE Core game run in Minnesota? I have no idea. But it almost certainly was the first FATE Core game run at a convention in the Upper Midwest.

Today, I'll focus on the story just a bit, with some GM tips and reflections at the very end. The next post will describe some of my learnings from running FATE Core optimized for the world of Tekumel.

The scenario that I developed, "Raid on the Temple of Vimuhla", featured the famous Temple of Vimuhla in the town of Katalal. This is the same temple whose huge miniature model was featured at the back of Dragon #4. To construct the scenario, I did a great deal of research on the Temple. Fortunately, Jeff Berry, also known as Chirine baKal, was able to share numerous photographs of the Temple. Most of these photos were taken in the '70s and '80s and featured the temple model in pristine condition. Jeff also gave me access to a copy of Ken Fletcher's wonderful two page handout on the floor model for all levels of the temple. Between the photos and Ken's illustrations, I was able to get a clear idea of how the temple was constructed.

Jeff was also a huge help to me with figuring out the details of daily life in the temple (rituals, locations of temple guards, and much, much more).


In terms of the details, I also discovered an error in the Temple description in Dragon #4, which identifies an important statue in the temple as of the 13 Seal Emperor, under whose auspices this particular temple was constructed. That cannot be correct, as I checked the list of Emperors in Swords & Glory, Volume I. The 13th Seal Emperor was in fact an Empress: Sriyesa "the Lady of the Palaces", which S&G Vol.I describes as "A whimsical and unstable ruler, much devoted to pleasure" - not one with a reputation for temple construction patronage (or much of anything else except dissipation).

Ken Fletcher's handout, which has the M.A.R. Barker Seal of Approval, and is dated for 1983 (the same year as the first publication of S&G Vol. I, lists the year of construction of the temple as 1,138 years ago (as of 2361 A.S.), which would put the construction of the temple during the short reign of Metlunel  I "the Foolish". This feels pretty questionable too. However, the very next emperor was Metlunel II "the Builder"  whose entry includes "Many great palaces and temples erected..." He sounds like a much better fit. A small point perhaps, but verisimilitude has always been important within the Tekumel community, as it is an immersive, non-European swords & planet setting. It's also important to me as I like to "feel the world" in as much detail as possible when I am GMing

How did all this detail come up in play? "You walk by a statue of the Seal Emperor who built the Temple; it is flanked by two Temple guards."


At any rate, prep centered on the copy I made of Ken Fletcher's map of the temple complex. I assigned a code to each room, tower, and space in the temple complex.  Then in MS Excel,  I created a location key including brief room descriptions, and tabs for the location of temple guards, treasures, NPCs, and more.

This activity took about a day and a half to complete. I'll create Aspects for many of the spaces and more of the NPCs in the future.  And now that I have put together the temple detail, I really want to run a campaign set in Katalal. It is one of those quiet, quintessentially Tsolyani rural towns that is perfect for PCs to run roughshod over.


So, back to the scenario.
It was set in the later days of the reign of Emperor Hirkane Tlakotani. The PCs were summoned to the White Stone clan house in Butrus (Western Tsolyanu), which was in a bit of a shambles due to recent wedding festivities that got REALLY out of control. In fact, one of the brides' (yes, that's plural) party, a Green Kirtle clan girl from the city of Katalal, had gone missing along with her escort to the wedding, a warrior-priest of Vimuhla who was a veteran of the Legion of Searing Flame. Shortly after the disappearance, a letter had arrived at the White Stone clanhouse, demanding that the clan elder pay a ransom for the release of the clan girl and her escort.

The clan elder knew that the clan could afford the ransom, but decided that it would set a bad precedent to give in to this kind of extortion. He commissioned the PCs to form a rescue party to reclaim both hostages by stealth and/or force.

Katalal is about 400 miles from Butrus,  but the White Stone clan provided a rather unusual form of transportation. It was a silver, cigar shaped metallic craft that could make the trip by air in about an hour. The astonished PCs were welcomed on-board by the craft's Livyani priestess pilot and her hulking N'luss warrior companion (who did a wonderful job showing the PCs how to strap on their safety harnesses; the Shen kind of gave up on the seating due to tail issues).

Once in Katalal, the PCs investigated a bit, and then determined that they would enter the temple from the Underworld. They were successful in their adventure! They rescued both hostages and freed a number of others from the dungeons below the temple.

As if that wasn't enough, due to the raid, changes in temple management are almost a certainty now. By the end of the scenario, the Scholar High Priest had fled the PCs incursion in a most ignoble manner, and the Ritual High Priest was dead, killed by the Green Kirtle hostage. A certain Administrative High Priestess is likely to be promoted to a more senior position in the temple.

GMing Lessions:
  • Use a world background handout to speed up play
  • Focus world background briefings ONLY on details relevant to the scenario; don't explain all the gods and their cohorts, only those that figure in the scenario
  • The scenario is probably best suited to a multisession adventure:
    • Session One: Get to Katalal and recon the Temple of Vimuhla
    • Session Two: Make the plan, and get it into action (i.e., figure out how to get in he temple, and get underway)
    • Session Three: The Raid - Get in and get out!
  • Moving PCs to points/scenes/locations of maximum action is critical - we know this in FATE! PCs don't need to plod their way though every room. Skip ahead and hit the important spaces. If the floor plan is complex, just say so - don't detail it.
  • Have more character sheets to choose from than the scenario needs - maximize player choice with pregens (a note here is that only 3 of the 7 players returned their sheets - so I guess some people really liked their characters)
  • Limit the number of players at the table to maximize each player's opportunity to be in the spotlight


  1. I'd love to have played in this game, even just sat in. Useful reflections for this kind of session too - the short background prompt especially, but also the point about jumping to the action. Players differ - for me moving through the landscape would have been a draw in itself - and the con and game store environment can be distracting to the point that usually comfortable pacing can seem overly drawn out. Finding the fun in a situation like this is even more of an art, a balance between giving the best of the world with its potential and a sensitive reading of and response to the players.

  2. I love it! I wish I could have been there!!!

  3. Would have liked to take part and meet you. I was down for Bretts game on Friday, but, alas, I could not stay the weekend and worked on sunday.. looking forward to hearing how the fate mechanic worked for you.