Saturday, September 10, 2011


I didn't get much work done on the campaign this week – I've started a new job late this August and have been training for it. I've been too tired most days to do anything afterward. So to make up for this lack of activity I decided to spend most of today working on the game – in particular on the two sub-levels, the Ssu spy post and the Tunnels of Lukdrinnektu's Spawn, that I mentioned in my last post.

When I arrived at Battleground I set up my books and papers and mapped out the spy post and tunnels, but when I started to stock the Ssu lair my efforts felt forced and weak. I was completely uninspired, and gave up after only filling half of the keyed locations. I was a bit ticked at myself for this, since I hoped to get a lot done today.

Driving home, I thought about this bout of writer's block. At first I thought maybe I was dry because I was simply tired. I stayed up late last night and was woken up this morning by men cutting down trees in my neighbor's yard. Thinking on it a bit more, I ultimately decided I wasn't so much tired but that I was tired of working on the Pits of Foreign Daring. I've all ready invested a week's worth of effort on this particular Underworld, and I simply want to work on something different. So I'm going to but these two sub-levels aside for now. I plan on returning to them, but only after I finish up some more plot-oriented scenarios and actually run a session or two of the game. I'm also considering folding these two areas into Level 2 of the Pits when I start prep that area in the future, instead of having them as separate and isolated sub-levels. This may make it easier to construct and stock them. At the very least I hope working on something different may reinvigorate my enthusiasm for these two areas when I return to them.

Hopefully this decision will speed things up and allow me to start recruitment for actual play within the next two weeks.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Campaign Progress

Happy Labor Day.

Today I finished up the first level of the Pits of Foreign Daring. The final total of keyed areas is around one-hundred and twenty-five, ranging from simple one line descriptions to one page write-ups concerning certain traps, complexes or shrines. Probably the most interesting encounters I constructed today are the chamber holding a Yeleth and an active shrine to Qon that may become a sanctuary and an ally.

I plan on next mapping out and writing up the Ssu spy post and the shadow-infested tunnels of Lukdrinnektu's spawn. These will be much smaller environments than the Pits proper, taking up only one page of graph paper each and having anywhere between 10 to 25 keyed encounters, with Lukdrinnektu's tunnels probably being the larger of the two sub-levels. In comparison, the first level of the Pits consists of six maps, ranging anywhere from 11 to 28 encounter areas per map.

After finishing the sub-levels, I'll next work on preparing two scenarios involving Tsolyani needing to hire adventurers. These will also concern exploring Underworlds, though these will be areas separate from the Pits, and one will be something of a nasty surprise.

Finally, I'll be stating up some opponents for the Hirilakte Arena, along with some Foreign Quarter NPCs the players could possibly interact with there. I figure it'll take maybe two weeks more prep time, then I'll be ready to advertise the campaign and start seriously recruiting players.

Speaking of which, while working on the game at Battleground I talked with two more patrons about the game, one of whom recognized and knew about Tekumel. I issued invitations, but while they seemed interested they were not certain if they would play, either due to work schedule or just lack of enthusiasm for gaming in general. Still, some interest is better than a flat out dismissal any day.

Reading what I've written for this post so far, I can't help but wonder if perhaps I'm over-preparing. Maybe just having that first level written up would be enough to start with. In general, I prefer having at least some notes and stats available over just winging it. It is something I'll have to think about.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Excavating An Underworld

I plan on the Pits of Foreign Daring to be a central location of my campaign – at least for the first three levels of my players' careers, after which they'll be able to explore Jakalla and the Imperium without having to worry about accidentally offending some High Clan noble and be made to take the High Ride. Whether the Pits actually do become central to the early stages of the game – a 'tent pole', to use OSR parlance – is up to the players and their actions. It is possible they'll prefer to engage in money fights in the Hirilakte Arena or take on commissions from Tsoylani looking for foreign mercenary scum to do some dirty work than risk the dangers of the tsuru'um. That will be fine with me – I want to give the players as many options as possible, and the Pits are just one such. Their whole purpose is to give characters a place to explore and win gold and glory at their own pace. I have no plans to have NPCs send them into the Pits for any reason – they can dare them as little or as often as they wish.

This is not to say that there are no plot hooks in the Pits, lying in wait for the players to stumble across and maybe chase after. There are at least three or four interesting things going on on the first level, with the most obvious being the fact that the cult of Wuru have made it into something of a stronghold. There's a good possibility that the players could earn the enmity of the servants of the Many Legged Serpent of Gloom, depending on their actions.

My current plan is to map out and stock the first level before moving on to other facets of the campaign. At my current pace, the first level of the Pits will have around one hundred keyed encounter areas, not counting the two sub-levels that adventuring parties could possibly stumble upon. I'm populating the dungeon using the system found in the Moldvay Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set, which I've found to be of great use over the past two years. At the very least it keeps me from stuffing too many monsters into a dungeon. If a monster encounter is called for, I roll on the wandering monster table in the EotPT rule book and decide whether the creature that comes up is appropriate – for example, Hlutrgu struck me as inappropriate – for some reason I can't see them wandering as far away from their enclaves as Ssu, Hluss or Shunned Ones would. Also, do they even have access to the Underworld in their swamps? Another time a roll called for a Nshe, which I rejected outright, thinking it being far too overwhelming for a first level band to deal with. For the most part, Mrur, Shedra, Kurgha and evil men are the primary inhabitants of the first level of the Pits. There are at least two more challenging encounters – a 'stunted' Sro (5 hit dice, but only about 8 feet long) is lairing in one chamber, while a Tsu'uru lurks in another. That encounter promises to be interesting, having many possible ways to cause complications for my players to overcome.

While the main levels of the Pits will be rather varied in their nature due to this random method, the sub-levels in between them will be more tightly focused. Initially I had no plans on using such environments, but the effort of trying to come up for a reason behind why a particular room was trapped inspired me. Who built this trap? There's no treasure here, so why did someone bother? Eventually I decided the Ssu constructed it, so to discourage people away from the hidden entrance to their spy outpost. The other sub-level adjacent to the first level is inhabited by the spider-like progeny of a demon – Lukdrinnektu, He Who Vomits Darkness. Upon finding the secret ways to this area, the party will notice their light sources dimming in a rather alarming matter.

Clues indicating the existence of the sub-levels will be scattered around the first level – a cowering slave who watched Ssu kill most of his masters and carry off two which they had hypnotized; a mural depicting a neophyte sorcerer cringing in horror as Lukdrinnektu stalks toward him. Hopefully things like that will excite my players' curiosity and make them want to find out just what is going on within the depths of the Pits of Foreign Daring.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Pits of Foreign Daring

In the Foreign Quarter of Jakalla, several streets east of the Armory of Bushetra, there is an entrance to a section of the city's famed tsuru'um. Located in the ruins of an abandoned tenement, this crumbling stone stairwell descends some one hundred feet below the earth, leading anyone bold enough to traverse it into a maze of winding corridors and dark chambers. This portion of the Jakallan underworld is called The Pits of Foreign Daring, though some refer to it instead as the Obsidian Skein That Strangles Fools. It has acquired these two names due to the large numbers of brave or desperate foreigners who, over the years, have challenged its dangers for a chance at winning great wealth or power.

The existence of the Pits are well-known, and Foreign Quarter guard patrols make a habit of checking the stairs regularly to make sure that no monstrosities emerge to bring horror to the surface. Guardsmen will not stop anyone from descending the stairs, but on occasion will stop returning adventuring parties and make an on-the-spot 'tax' collection, if they think such a group has had an successful expedition. Bands of thugs and bravos have also been known to waylay explorers exiting the Pits, taking advantage of their weakened condition to reap the rewards of their bloody labors.

On the lintel of the archway the stairs pass beneath, someone carved a warning to those entering the Pits. The graffiti (written in Tsoylani) reads as follows:

Oh ye desperate and foolish, know this to be true – in these noisome pits, an outlier of Hell, gold is scarce and of scant comfort, while death waits close at hand and wears a thousand forms.

An Encouraging Response

As of right now, my current intention for this experiment is to run it as a house campaign for my friendly local gaming store, Battleground Games and Hobbies. Earlier in the week, when I visited the store to start the groundwork for the game, I discussed it with the owner. Derek, a lover of old school gaming, was quite enthusiastic and promised to promote the game when I'm ready to start.

In addition, I've had two of the store's patrons ask me about the campaign. When I'm working on a campaign or adventure I usually write it up over at Battleground, since it has fewer potential distractions than my home, plenty of open space, and a fair number of gamers who enjoy being used as sounding boards for ideas. Friday, as I was writing up parts of the main Underworld that will be open to starting characters, I had a gentleman come up and ask me – a little incredulously – if I was actually working on a Tekumel game. I told him that I was, explaining my plans, and inviting him to participate when I finally got things off the ground. He seemed quite pleased, so I think I have at least one player for when I start up.

Today I had another gamer come up and ask me how progress on my games were going. Again I explained my current plans, and while he wasn't familiar with EotPT, he seemed intrigued by it. So as of right now I have some hope that I may have a good initial turn out when I start the campaign in a few weeks.

Also encouraging is the response I've gotten to this blog. I made a mention of it on the Tekumel Yahoo Mailing list that I've lurked on for years and got three comments and three followers right off the bat. Here I was thinking I'd be lucky to have three followers and a handful of comments after a few months' worth of postings, if I managed to keep the blog going for that long. Thank you all, and I hope you find what I write about here to be of some interest.

A Pointless Introduction

Hello there.

My name is Jeremy Harper, and I've been involved in the hobby of roleplaying for over twenty-five years – a scary sum of years, now that I consider it. I am not a published writer nor an industry insider nor a prominent member of any current theoretical cliques or movements active in this hobby. I'm just a humble practitioner who prefers the pleasures of running a campaign over those of being a player. The group of friends I game with enjoy the games I run, and I take some satisfaction in that. I'm post semi-regularly over at the RPG.Net forums, though my comments attract little attention – probably good proof that I'm not an intellectual or creative heavyweight.

Anyway, the purpose of this blog, The Glory of High Adventure, is to chronicle my perhaps futile attempt to start and run a Tekumel campaign. This will be the first time I've run a game set in Professor M.A.R. Barker's magnificent science fantasy setting, and I hope it will at the very least be an interesting and enlightening experience for me. I will be using the classic TSR Empire of the Petal Throne rules (I have a copy of the Different Worlds reprint) with additional background material derived from Swords and Glory Volume One, Tekumel: The Empire of the Petal Throne from Guardians of Order, and various resources from around the Internet. Players in my game will be using the 'barbarians arriving in Jakalla to make their fortune' set-up recommended by the EotPT rules, and initial adventures will most likely consist of explorations into the Underworlds beneath that ancient and depraved port city. However, I've always liked to give my players as much freedom of action as possible, and will try my best to create scenarios that match their interests and ambitions – an 'Old School' sensibility that I've tried to practice a long time before I was ever aware of the current Old School Renaissance. As for posts here, I will be writing alternately about my efforts to devise environments and plots, my thoughts (such as they are) about Tekumel and aspects of the setting that my adventures and campaign will touch upon, along with session recaps and player responses.

The campaign will begin play during the year 2354 AS, as detailed in the EotPT background section. Emperor Hirkane Tlakotani sits on the Petal Throne in Avanthar, hale yet aged. His heirs are preparing their strategies for the inevitable succession while the four major political parties in Tsoylanu plot against each other. General Kettukal remains in 'voluntary' exile in Chene Ho while the Baron Ald prepares the armies of Yan Kor and his mysterious Weapon Without Answer for his war of revenge against the Empire. I suspect this will remain the status quo for my campaign for at least the first few game years. Will my players eventually become involved in these matters? Hopefully we'll find out over the coming weeks.