Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Expedition

Photo by Luca Galuzzi

Fellow Tekumel afficionado +Brett Slocum and I took a road trip up to U-Con a couple of weeks ago for a weekend of Tekumel gaming. For quite a few years, U-Con has offered a strong Tekumel track. This year, I gather was no different, with the exception that the number of people playing Tekumel games may have ticked upwards a bit.

A few days ago, I did a post on one of the Fate games I ran at the con, Project Generations. I also ran a Tekumel game based on Fate Core, but before describing that session I though I'd do some brief vignettes on some of the Tekumel games that other people ran.

The first Tekumel game of the convention was run by Patrick Brady, one of the authors of Tekumel: Empire of the Petal Throne (Guardians of Order). Patrick's game featured an archaeological expedition into the Desert of Sighs, which is directly north of Tsolyanu. (This desert has sandworms, so during the course of the adventure I was careful not to mention them in any way. No need to summon trouble.)

The expedition was commissioned by the Might of Ganga, a southern regional clan of ancient lineage. The clan traces its ancestry to the rulers of Engsvan hla Ganga, one of the ancient empires that preceded the Tsolyani Imperium, and that influenced Tsolyani culture, religion, and statecraft in a multitude of ways. Like Atlantis, Engsvan hla Ganga met with a bitter, cataclysmic end, with many parts of its land disappearing beneath the waves.

While the Might of Ganga  is a high clan with an ancient lineage, their ambitions are hampered by the whispered slight from other high status clans that Might of Ganga is "regional". And the best way to break out of a regional reputation and status is to show that your clan's influence was once widespread. So when a possibly Engsvanyali port city was discovered buried in the sands on the southern rim of the Desert of Sighs to the north of Toslyanu, a young noble was dispatched with scholars in tow to discover whether traces of the clan's proud Engvanyali ancestry could indeed be found there.

The game began with the GM distributing the character sheets across the 15'-20' board room table where we we were playing. He arranged the character sheets along the length of the table by the relative clan status of each character, from the extremely highborn Might of Ganga youth well down toward Flat Peaks magical specialists with Milumanayani tribesmen (i.e., "clanless" folk by Tsolyani standards) at the far end of the table. Interestingly enough, each clan status brought with it certain privileges and responsibilities.

It was a fun scenario, with many humorous and frustrating interactions with the local labor force for the excavation (i.e., Milumanayani tribesmen with their endless clan council deliberations and weird ideas like "democracy"). I also learned about one of the great dangers involved in exploring archaeological sites on Tekumel, which is the existence of Execration spells as part of the magical defenses of important governmental and religious sites such as temples.

Execrations (i.e., curse spells) are like landmines. They are spells which have been cast on an inscription - painted or carved on a surface where people will unwittingly step on or touch them. Magical landmines, essentially. They are set to be triggered by specific groups (not individuals) such as "All worshipers of Sarku" or "Any Change aligned persons". People who belong in a site don't trigger the spell-devices. Intruders - witting or unwitting ones - often do, with deadly consequences. When you add on to the picture that Execrations tend to be repeatedly cast on the same site over the centuries, you can end up with some very potent magical bombs to defuse.

I was the specialist in detecting and clearing Execrations.  I managed not to detonate any. Some of the Milumanayan help was less fortunate.

No comments:

Post a Comment