Short History of Tékumel Miniatures 5: Side Trip to Salarvyá

I offer another brief detour before I revise Part 3 in light of new information and then move on to PHD Miniatures in the next installment.

Tékumel miniatures are a testament to impermanence, with various companies flickering briefly to life and then again leaving this plane. The short skein of Robert Richardson’s Salarvyáni figures is a good example. Carl Brodt in January 1998 first announced on the usenet that a new company had been producing 25mm miniatures of Salarvyáni armies for “less than a year.” In March 1999, Brodt announced that Tita’s House of Games would carry Richardson’s Salarvyáni line. But by July 2000 Brodt had announced the miniatures were no longer being produced and that he had sold the balance of the inventory

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Short History of Tékumel Miniatures 4: A Small-scale Detour

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Maybe the fourth installment of a “short” history is an oxymoron? Anyway, the upcoming chapter on the reign of PHD Games will be a good one, but I first want to make some significant revisions to the last post on the Time of No Kings in light of some new information I have found. Before I do that, let me catch my breath with a shorter post on shorter miniatures.

The Old Guard, Ral Partha, Tékumel Journal, Tékumel Games, and PHD all made 25mm miniatures. Hobbyists quibble over details, but at this scale the height of an average man should be, well, 25mm and other things sized proportionately.   Later, Eureka and the Tékumel Project bumped up the scale slightly to 28mm, which gives room for slightly more detail and takes mercy on Boomers’ fading eyesight.

However, two lines of smaller scale miniatures exist and are among the rarest Tékumel collectibles. I only know of two people who have them.

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Previously Unknown M.A.R. Barker Drawing Found

My powers of clairvoyance detect that some Tékumel fans are bored by detailed catalogues of old miniatures, so let’s take a break from that for a moment.  Let’s discuss instead an exciting new find I made several days ago.

You will find in various places references to Barker’s pre-Tekumel writing in sci-fi fanzines.  While Barker’s correspondence apparently contains a large corpus of creative writing (e.g. “The Petal Throne,” which was contained in a letter to Lin Carter), I have so far identified just five articles (not all stories) by the young Phil Barker that were published in fanzines.  Three of these articles appeared in the Portland, Oregon fanzine “Fanscient” published by Donald Day:

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Short History of Tékumel Miniatures 3: The Time of No Kings

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(I don’t have a lot of pictures of miniatures of this period.  I’d welcome any help from readers.  Please send your images and permission to post.  Thanks.)

Ral Partha stopped producing the Legions of the Petal Throne line sometime in the second half of 1980, shortly after Barker parted ways with TSR.  For about two years, no miniatures were produced, though retailers still sold existing stocks. Then a letter to readers dated October 22, 1982 in the Imperial Military Journal Volume II, #4 stated that the Tékumel Journal (then headed by Jeff Berry) had acquired the “molds, masters, and back stocks” for a $500.00 down payment and $2000.00 in installment payments.  Tékumel Journal originally contracted casting services from “TA-HR,” but in early 1983 took delivery of its own casting machine.  According to The Imperial Military Journal Volume II, #7, Mike Mornard then supervised production.

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These individual packs are quite rare; the figures were usually sold in bulk.

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Short History of Tékumel Miniatures 2: Ral Partha

Ral Partha

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(Note: Thanks again to Chiríne ba Kal for his help with the below information.)

Bill Murray was more of an artistic figure sculptor and not as interested in wargame miniatures. He soon gave up the Petal Throne line. Ral Partha started advertising that it had taken over the Petal Throne figures in April 1978. At the time, Ral Partha was aggressively expanding its ranges of figures. Ral Partha continued all the figures previously produced by The Old Guard and produced and sold some figures that had been sculpted by Bill Murray but never sold by The Old Guard.

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Short History of Tékumel Miniatures: Preface and Chapter 1

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In the last post, I discussed the first set of miniatures rules for Tékumel., which prompted me to think about miniatures figures.  Miniature figures are the most complicated and difficult items for a Tékumel collector to track and identify. With the generous help of Chiríne hi Ba Kal, I’d like to try to chart the tortuous history of Tekumel miniatures. This is the preface and first chapter of that story.  In future posts, I’ll continue.

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Legions of the Petal Throne

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TSR Edition Cover

Introduction

In December 1976 The Old Guard started selling “Legions of the Petal Throne” miniatures sculpted by Bill Murray (more on those in a future post). The Old Guard advertisement promised upcoming miniatures rules, which were released by TSR in October 1977, also under the title “Legions of the Petal Throne.”

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Old Guard Advertisement in The Dragon #4

The rulebook, which is divided into basic (qadárni) and advanced (qadárdàli) rules, drips with Tékumel flavor. Two reprints of articles from The Dragon provide background on Tékumel warfare. The rules include a military magic system distilled from the earlier War of Wizards, as well as many notes on the peculiarities of the military forces of the five empires. An appendix includes statistics for each legion of the five empires, many small nations, and some non-human forces. The book also includes great artwork by Sutherland, D.A. Trampier, and Tom Wham, who also helped edit the rules.

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War of Wizards

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TSR 3rd Printing Box Cover

Introduction

War of Wizards was the first commercially-marketed Tékumel product. Barker’s self-produced version of War of Wizards was advertised as a “special pre-publication offer” in TSR’s house journal Strategic Review #2 (Summer 1975).

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Advertisement for “Pre-publication” Version of War of Wizards in Strategic Review #2 (Summer 1975)

War of Wizards has references to Tékumel, but, as stated in the above advertisement, the rules of the standalone boardgame could be used for battles between magic users in other fantasy settings.  In the Tékumel context, the game models one-on-one or two-on-two magical battles in the Hirilákte Arenas.  Some later writing about the game implies that its mechanisms foreshadow Magic: The Gathering.  Well, no, not really.

Altogether there have been four versions of this game.  Continue reading

Empire of the Petal Throne

TSR First Edition Empire of the Petal Throne

Introduction

For me, and I suspect for many people, it was this game that launched a lifelong fascination with the world of Tékumel. I still remember the chill that ran up my spine when as a high school student I started to read the exotic and detailed Empire of the Petal Throne rulebook. The detailed languages, the references to imagined literature, and the complex religious iconography of the world of Tekumel were not only baroque and different, but also fully thought out and largely internally consistent.

In Borges’s story “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius,” the narrator finds the eleventh volume of an encyclopedia describing an unknown country of Uqbar in an unknown world of Tlön. The existence of the 11th volume implied the existence of the entire encyclopedia, and, surely, the existence of Uqbar and Tlön. The detail of Tekumel gives the same frisson of seeing a veil pulled back from another reality. In the Borges story, in accord with idealist philosophy, the very idea of Uqbar leads to the reality and Uqbar artifacts begin to appear here and there. I await the discovery of a Llyáni inscription. Continue reading