Gaming on Tékumel

Rules Modifications

Gardásiyal: Experience & Skills

by Joseph M. Saul

Though Gardásiyal generally works well for our needs, these areas required heavy modification to suit our style of play. As always, your mileage may vary.


The most substantial changes we made were in the Experience system. I planned to run a highly political campaign, set largely within civilized Tsolyáni society at its higher levels—in other words, one with much more talking than fighting. Killing someone who is a member of a very high clan is an extremely expensive proposition even if you are a fellow member of that level of society, and even injuring people is to be avoided at all cost due to the massive Shamtla awards one can incur. Trips to the Underworld and other less civilized areas, where one can meet and greet the friendly native wildlife, inimical races, and other ‘legal’ kills would be rare.

In such an enviroment, weapon and magical skills would be useful—but only as an adjunct to such skills as Etiquette and various knowledge skills that could give you useful insights into your opponents and your own position (and help you avoid embarassing social errors that could result in a quick one-way trip to Penóm, Vacationland of the South).

We found the existing experience system to be unsuitable for our style of play in two critical respects. First, it awarded experience based mostly on kills and treasure. Second, it only awarded experience toward weapon and magical skills; other skills were improved as ‘hobby skills’ with a fixed number of points on the character’s birthday.

Our solution was to do the following:

1. Eliminate the ‘experience point’ and award experience in ‘skill points’ (one level of a one-point skill, e.g. Etiquette, costs one skill point; Longsword, for example, costs two).

2. Award experience based on roleplaying, generally a fixed amount per game session plus bonuses for especially appropriate in-character actions. I sometimes poll the players about the bonuses. The usual award is half a point (0.5) per game session, with bonuses being around a quarter (0.25) or a half (0.5).

3. Give bonus experience for campaign contributions’, which can include game logs (Shekkara’s player earned substantial bonuses for the logs you can read on the Jakalla Nights website), detailed clan and family information, artwork (I wish), or basically anything the GM rules is a contribution. In order to avoid setting up a contribution arms race, I recommend that you keep the awards at a point where they don’t unbalance the game but do reward players for serious effort—0.1 to 0.25 per item, say.

4. Allow players to spend skill points on any skill, of any type, provided the player can convince the GM that her character has actually been using or studying that skill. A player whose character has spent the past two sessions peaceably investigating a murder can’t spend his points on dueling longsword. (Unless the character has been spending afternoons at his sword school.) “Ohe! Harshan! I have finally figured out how to do that universal parry!” “Put the Kaika leg down and have another cup of chumetl, eh? You're scaring the courtesans...”

5. Award experience for training (outside adventure) at 0.1/week. When you’re running an urban campaign, and characters have social responsibilities, you have to deal with downtime. Working at your normal job qualifies as training toward skills you regularly use as part of it—if, for example, you’re a sixth-circle administrative priestess of Chegárra, it’s perfectly acceptable to spend those points on Administration, Finance, Legal, or even Inter-Temple Politics, to name a few. Training with an instructor can give a bonus.


As you might guess, these changes to the Experience system have required some changes to the Skill system. We’ve also made some other changes.

1. Instead of receiving 25 Magic Points to buy spells with upon purchasing a level of Sorcery, characters receive a level of Sorcery for every 25 skill points they have spent on spells. Fractions are rounded up; a character who has spent 67 points on spells is a 3rd level Sorcerer. (Spell cost clarification: we have ruled that the spell costs listed are totals including all earlier levels. A character who already has the level three version of a spell and wishes to buy the level four version pays the difference between the two costs. If you don’t do this, acquiring spells becomes almost impossible.)

2. Eliminate the requirement to buy lower-ranking weapons before purchasing the higher-ranking ones. Balancing the training available to a warrior character thus becomes the GM’s responsibility; we try to avoid abusing this.

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