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