Friday, 23 October 2015
On Thursday evening I got to try Tékumel in a Hangouts game brilliantly hosted by Barry Blatt, and I'm still digesting the experience.
Barry's clearly a Tékumel devotee, the players mostly (or perhaps all) novices to the setting. The session took the traditional approach of having the characters be refugees newly arrived in Tsolyánu (the city of Jakálla to be specific) which helps deal with the fact that the players as well as their characters are dazed and bewildered.
Amongst my notes of the session I jotted down "claustrophobic, exotic, bewildering". There are lots of things to love, including the fact that the chief vermin are not your standard rodents but some overgrown bug, and the mishmash of sword and planet meets vaguely ancient Eastern meets advanced (does having lawyers mean advanced?) civilisation.
It's also quite unsettling - in your typical pseudo-medieval (or even grimdark) setting a starting character may be at the bottom of the food chain but they're out to improve their lot - it may be risky but one of these days... And in the meantime they've got a reasonable idea of how the society around them works. Our characters were (literally) fresh off the boat with no contacts other than their fellow refugees in this society where it's not what you know but who you know and what clan you're in that counts. Clearly the whole Foreigners' Quarter saw us as marks whereas the city proper barely acknowledged our existance. And one of the worst things that could happen to you would be for anyone that matters to pay any attention to you. We were very much in the "them" camp, and exceedingly unlikely to ever become "us".
So in a bizarre way the setting's both very offputting and incredibly fascinating, and as a roleplaying experience deeply rewarding as a result.
I'd very much like to play again (I think...). But it does leave the impression of a setting that's extremely hard to GM, which is a shame.