Friday, November 27, 2020

How did professor Barker run Tekumel games?

The first Petal Throne RPG is very close to 0th edition D&D. One of the ability scores is renamed, and they are all expressed as percentiles, but there are no rules as written-type skills for them to be applied to*. Take, for instance, how we handle grappling:

 Players often ask about the possibilities of physically capturing a surprised opponent (rather than striking him). This, like many tasks requiring arduous physical or mental action, cannot be legislated easily by the rules... the character's strength, intelligence, and dexterity are added together and averaged... percentile dice are rolled, and if the score is less than the averaged figure, the action is successful.

So it similar to the roll at or under ability score that most D&D players were starting to resort to in order to figure out what happens when failure needs to be adjudicated.

 Later in the book, we get a play example, which further shows us how Barker would run games at the time he wrote the first Tekumel game.

Player: We listen at the door.
Ref: (rolling die) You hear nothing.

So it seems that Barker probably did the x in 6 method of listening at doors. Maybe an x in ten since he was so fond of percentiles though? BTW, in his book, d20s are actually numbered 1-10 twice and he feels the need to tell people how to use them to generate 1 to 20 numbers. He treats random number generation as a thing that people just weren't used to at the time, giving us lots of parenthetical advice and procedures that modern roll players ain't got no time for.

Player:  We have three men trying to open the door.
Ref: (rolling dice) The door opens.

So now I see dice plural, and that tells me either he isn't consistent with the singular die vs plural dice--but I think he is because he uses "die" a couple lines down when getting into surprise rules-- or he went with percentile chance to open a door with three dudes. Maybe he has their strength scores written down and does some mental math. I dunno.

Player: Our strongest warrior... is lying flat on his stomach and prodding the hasp [of a treasure box] with the point of his spear.
Ref: (Mentally giving the warrior a 20 percent chance of being hit by the tiny poisoned projectiles hidden in the hasp, rolling a die and finding that the spines missed...) A handful of little spines go zipping over the head of your warrior. He's not injured. The chest comes open.

So we see here that PC skill had nothing to do with avoiding a trap, it was all up to the description the players gave of their approach, as well as a little luck. Very old school.

Player: We're searching the chest for secret compartments.
Ref: You find none. That's all there is.

Once again, the players describe something, and the Ref just decides the results. No spot or search or INT checks are rolled. Let's see what happens when they encounter an obvious trap in an idol surrounded by coins:

Player: He pushes just one coin off the altar toward himself. What happens?
Ref: (Laughing fiendishly) That's all it takes to set off the trap. A great metal cage falls clanging down over all of you. I believe you were all up near the altar--nobody specified leaving any of the party behind to guard the door, and thus I assume you were all within the 20 foot square area covered by the cage. (Rolling percentile dice, giving the party a 20 percent chance to have had one or more stragglers outside the cage area...)

So it seems he was a fan of 20% chances maybe. Well, that's about all I have, but if you run across other examples of Barker's play style, I'd love to hear them.


*raw skills seem more like backgrounds. Barker seems to have a common sense approach to them. If you have the skill, you know how to do certain things. No dice involved in doing them.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2020

D66 adventure generator

I've started a new project. I'm tired of all my sideways books of tables that are too complex. So I'm doing my own Judges Guild style take on Ready Reference Sheets. The first is below. Roll a few times on it with a d6 for a tens digit and another for a ones digit. 

d66 Adventure Instigator 

Incident  11 Dream or sweven 12 Last will and testament 13 Town crier 14 A contest 15 A drug-induced vision 16 A map 21 A mysterious coin 22 A trap has been laid 23 A noble 24 A curse 25 An anniversary 26 Overheard conversation 31 A juicy rumor 32 Creatures stalk the night 33 Someone has gone missing 34 An apparition is seen 35 Three witches doth prophecy 36 A crazed monk 41 The council has decided 42 A friend in need 43 You are not the father 44 An odd item has been found 45 A disease is spread 46 A survivor limps into town 51 Bad guys ride up 52 The sheriff is missing 53 Someone is on the lamb 54 Previous baddie toppled 55 Monster of the week 56 A secret society plots 61 Something has been unsealed 62 Someone has been framed 63 A secret must be kept 64 A group comes through town 65 An old friend is here 66 Rent is due 

Mission 11 fight the power 12 find the mcguff 13 catch a spy 14 finger a filcher 15 get there first 16 prove something 21 restore status quo 22 eradicate baddies 23 nip threat in bud 24 seduce 25 scare off 26 fulfill dying wish 31 find heir 32 unite the tribes 33 solve mystery 34 seven samurai 35 plumb depths 36 act as entourage 41 play bodyguard 42 accompany girl 43 renew/undo seals 44 hunt down 45 scavenger hunt 46 find cure 51 solve riddle 52 hold the fort 53 survive disaster 54 restore item 55 reconnoiter 56 give message 61 reclaim area 62 explore area 63 execute geas 64 break bonds 64 find ingredient 66 save the king 

But also deal with 11 g-g-g-ghosts 12 aliens 13 a double agent 14 false info 15 something broken 16 reluctant NPC 21 conflicting patrons 22 factions 23 other adventurers 24 barbarians 25 disease 26 curse 31 a dragon 32 long journey 33 sewer side-quest 34 being tailed 35 cultural faux pas 36 invincible foes 41 sky-island 42 sexy wizard 43 demonic agents 44 Fiend Folio roll 45 lost entrance 46 awakening volcano 51 you mom’s coming 52 two dates at once 53 terminator 54 someone’s body 55 fey trickery 56 one way journey 61 lesser evil 62 time constraint 63 complex ritual 64 preserve virtue 65 Sophie’s choice 66 big bad’s minion 

Journey & Destinations 11 snakes 12 strange thorp 13 guests of royalty 14 witch’s hut 15 three princes 16 cemetery 21 gassy bog 22 strange fruit 23 way too cheerful villa 24 cursed land 25 Moria shortcut 26 bustling burg 31 to the moon! 32 in the underworld 33 a dark dark wood 34 a series of forts 35 a castle 36 an abandoned keep 41 a haunted lagoon 42 micro-world 43 elemental plane 44 underwater 45 seven heavens 46 six hells 51 a doomed manor 52 the big city 53 winding canyons 54 a desert 55 a cave 56 the three vales 61 incognito 62 through a body 63 planes of dream 64 to a lonely isle 65 to level X 66 inside PC’s memories


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Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Tekumel Hack to get you into EPT

So embedded below is a hack designed to get the players going (the title is a reference to the subject of the first post of this blog, where I talked about Ebon Bindings). I personally, as the GM, am going to be using Empire of the Petal Throne's original 1975 game rules for the most part. The goal of the hack was to bring the percentile nature of the ability scores more into the game and to unify mechanics so it's easy for beginners to grok. Roll low is good for everything in the hack except damage. Of course you want high damage. The spells are a bit better too now, if I say so myself. I wanna see some gray hands and silver halos flying about soon!

BTW I recently discovered Jeff Dee's Tekumel take and it is sweeeeeeet.

Read below or on Google Docs.

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