Thursday, January 13, 2011

EPT Minus Tékumel?

Gauging by chatter in the rarefied pockets of the gaming ether I tend to visit, there has been a noticeable surge in the past few months of interest in one of my own pet obsessions, Empire of the Petal Throne

Curiously, that uptick seems less a creature of the traditional hardcore fan-base of M.A.R. Barker's work—the big-tent Tekumel yahoo group remains relatively low volume and seemingly unconcerned with the activity percolating outside it—but by a number of people involved in trying to get back to the “sword-and-planets”, classic-play fun of the original game.

This “radical” exploration (as in the literal meaning of the word: getting back to the roots) of EPT has come on a few fronts. On one-hand you have the somewhat conventional, yet utterly impressive tabletop play evident in our Minnesota friends who recently sponsored an exciting-sounding two-day mini-con of their own.

On the other, you have people exploring whole new dimensions of the setting and rules such as Ix's march toward a Tékumel pre-history space opera mentioned the other day. (Speaking of said blog there is a highly-amusing account of The Drune's own foray into our domain game experiment up today worth checking out.)

Even more radically, you have a number of people posing the question: can I run EPT as a game system minus Barker's planet completely? Some discussion has focused on providing an interesting and appropriate set of rules for a planetary romance homebrew setting that catches many of the same highlights of massive ancient ruins, elaborate exotic cultures, weird alien creatures etc. Indeed one enterprising soul, Mike D. over at Sword+1 blog has already gone as far as to edit down the original rules set into a Tekumel-less system.

While personally I think EPT play would miss a vital spark without that metal-poor, tradition-heavy hothouse of a planet—if running it I would prefer some gonzo tweaks of my own as opposed to canning it altogether—I think they are valuable explorations.

Why? Because as a variant OD&D system that old dinosaur of a game has some simply great rules to futz with as house rules in their own right:
  • A magnificent, old-school skill system (that we are using in the worldgame) for both run-of-the-mill vocations and strangely quirky magical, psychic ones for the adventuring classes. (Who doesn't want to play a magic-user that can at first level use a super-yogi skill to hold their breath for hours on end or contort their body in weird ways?)
  • An attribute system that replaces some of the character-over-player skill attributes: Wisdom and Charisma.
  • Interesting--and deadly--combat mechanics such as the option to choose to have a critical hit simply do double damage or go for broke with some exploding dice action. The damage-by-hit dice system and to-hit modifiers based for high scores in non-traditional, but logical attributes such as Intelligence.
  • Domain rules for running fiefs in a non-medieval feudal campaign setting (a weakness of virtually every set of such rules D&D and it's imitators has produced).
  • Wonderful guidelines for creating vast Underworlds with “Saturday Night Specials”.
And that is just my annotated list...


  1. I should start getting a prize for first comments LOL. Honestly I had only heard about OEPT in passing from oSR blogs, yours was the first that I got a glimpse into how incredibly cool it is as a setting. Now I am interested in getting the game!

    So how does go abouts landing this rare beast these days???

  2. You can buy a legal PDF copy of EPT for a pretty decent price. You should also check out the other documents they have listed for Tekumel too, some really interesting work there.

  3. Periodically, talk that this comes up that gives me an itch to pull out EPT. I go upstairs to my game and comics room--and find, as always, that its still at my parents house. And thus I'm continually denied.

  4. It's funny, Trey, recently I have been having this on-again, off-again yearning feeling for a lost treasure trove of old gaming stuff that must be in my mother's garage (they never toss anything).

    I have half-forgotten what must be in all those boxes, I know it must be fairly substantial given the fact that from 10-16 I pumped just about every $ I earned into buying RPG crap. Who knows what waits in my personal El Dorado.

  5. I've been itching to pull my EPT box set off the shelf and have a look. But alas, my focus on all of the other things I've got going on game wise is diffuse enough as it is!

  6. *cough* It was three days of gaming, actually. *cough*

    "the somewhat conventional,"

    It was about as conventional as you can get, I think, both for the RPG sessions and the miniatures games. I may be wrong, of course, but I think I may be the last of the Ancient Fossils doing this kind of thing. Someday, we'll get you into our Eeeeevil Clutches and you can see for yourself...

    "yet utterly impressive tabletop play"

    Gosh! Thank you! I do try to entertain, in my own modest way, and I'm happy to hear that you liked what you have seen of our little weekend of havoc and mayhem.

  7. I dunno - to me, the Gamescience Sourcebook is the *big thing*; EPT is just a system. It has some stuff I would extract for use in another system; and the box has a really cool cover; and the map and map key to Jakalla are great, but the rules themselves are nothing special. IMO.

  8. @phf: I'd agree with you about the Sourcebook being the *big thing*; it's astonishing. EPT, as a game system, is (as both Gary and Dave thought) D&D with editing, so I'd agree with you that it's the world-setting that makes all the difference...

  9. @Chirine/Jeff
    "Someday, we'll get you into our Eeeeevil Clutches and you can see for yourself..."
    This I will have to do. I think a pilgrimage/research journey to Minn. will have to be in order--when the ice thaws.