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Who Created Tékumel?

Professor M.A.R. Barker was a professor at the University of Minnesota, in the Department of South and Southwestern Asian Studies, where he taught the Urdu language, Arabic, and subjects relating to India and Pakistan. Since the age of ten he has been developing the background, history, and lore of an imaginary world called Tékumel, and has run role-playing sessions set on Tékumel for over 25 years. Since Tékumel has become so intricate and ‘real’, however, there is some debate over whether it really does exist in another ‘pocket dimension’, a dimension to which Professor Barker has more than casual access ...

Tékumel saw its first published form in 1975 with Empire of the Petal Throne, the second game published by TSR, Inc, the makers of the incredibly popular role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons. Since then Tékumel games have been published by several companies (among them Different Worlds, Theatre of the Mind and GameScience and recently Guardians of Order) and a wealth of gaming and source information—game systems, miniatures and miniature rules, maps, fanzines, background material, a treatise on demon summoning, a bestiary, language books, adventures, even five novels—has been developed. Professor Barker has developed scripts, languages (in the case of Tsolyáni, a language that can be spoken, with a grammar handbook and lexicon, like Tolkien’s Elvish or Star Trek’s Klingon), histories, modes of dress, etiquettes, architectural styles, weapons and armor, religions, legal codes, demographics, sciences, etc. for all of the major and most of the minor cultures. A healthy mailing list frequented by the Professor adds to the material continually, and new Tékumel products are always in the works (a fourth generation RPG system has just been released). The internet has made possible the growth of a strong community of Tékumel fans which is increasing in size all the time.

In short, the world of Tékumel is one of the most extensively developed fantasy melieus of all time. Tita’s House of Games is proud to be the premier supplier of Tékumel material to buyers all over the world.

The World of Tékumel

The story begins some 60,000 years in the future, when humans and their alien allies settled the planet of Tékumel. After extensive terraforming and clashes with the planet’s native species, Tékumel became a residential planet frequented by the wealthy and powerful.

Then came the Time of Darkness, when Tékumel and its solar system suddenly and mysteriously fell into a pocket universe, shattering civilisation and causing humans, allies and enemies alike to fall back into barbarism. The sky was empty of stars and all lines of communication were cut; raw materials imported from other planets—particularly iron—became rare; the great machines fell silent.

For perhaps fifty centuries survival hung by a thread, but slowly civilisations emerged from the darkness and wars raged across the planet between empires and against the native species, the Ssú and the Hlüss. Mankind has climbed back up to a social and technological level resembling that of Earth during the European Renaissance, but the societies of Tékumel are different and unique. Now is the time of the Second Imperium of Tsolyánu, the other four major empires of the northern continent—Livyánu, Mu'ugalavyá, Yán Kór and Salarvyá—and many other lands, alien enclaves, vast deserts and endless seas. The learned can make use of a form of ‘magic’—actually extra-dimensional energies from the ‘Planes Beyond’, or the magic-like effects of ancient technological devices. Contact has been made with a race of powerful extra-dimensional beings—‘gods’ to all intents and purposes—that are worshipped with elaborate ritual.

Tékumel is a world of tradition, elaborate bureaucracies and heavily codified social structures and customs. They have mighty, well-organized legions like those of the Romans. Their gods are like those of the Hindus, with a heavy dose of the bloodthirsty Aztec or Mayan deities. Their legal codes and sciences are much like those of the Arab philosophers of the Middle Ages; they are obsessed with personal and family honor much like the medieval Japanese. The societies presented with the game are very intricate and very old, with histories, traditions, and myths stretching back some 25,000 years.

For a detailed information on the world of Tékumel, visit Tékumel: The World of the Petal Throne, the official site for Professor Barker’s amazing creation.

Original site design and photo by Universal Head.

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