Sunday, February 21, 2016

Further Pondering Tsolyáni Monasteries

So I have been giving a bit more thought to a short monograph on Tsolyáni monasteries. Like I posted earlier, I would dump much of what I wrote in the 90s, and focus instead on how Tsolyáni monasteries actually operate vis-a-vis the Temples: a change I think would also make the monograph more useful for people who are "gaming" Tékumel.

There isn't that much information on Tsolyáni monasteries at all, and I think I have most of the reference materials I would need: Mitlanyál, Man of Gold, Sourcebook, etc. along with most or all of the piecemeal references to monasteries made over the years, including the Professor's one-paragraph description of monasteries in general from the Blue Room archives.

There is one thing I am missing. Apparently, one of the old Adventures on Tekumel books (Beneath the Lands of Tsolyánu?) includes an adventure set in a monastery. Since I don't have this, I am wondering how useful it might be. Is it a monastery we already know a fair bit about? Is there much description applicable to monasteries in general? If anyone out there already has a copy, I would love to hear your thoughts on how important a source it might be.

On another note, there are very few monasteries out there for which we have Tsolyáni names, but two that we do (the Ksárul "Kauingákte Monastery" and the Thúmis "Hauninngákte Monastery") both have the suffix (or stem element) "-ngákte" in their names. Anybody know what this might mean? I can't find -ngákte in the Tsolyáni language book at all.....

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Tekumeláni Naval Warfare - one week on

It has been a week since I released Naval Warfare on Tékumel, and I would like to thank everybody for your positive and encouraging responses. I have no idea how many times it has been downloaded (it seems that Dropbox won't actually tell me that) but based on the recent traffic on the blog, there must a be few of you out there! Thank you for your interest!

I haven't started work on any further Tékumel projects yet, and I don't expect to for another month or two at least. Instead, I have been roaming around the blogs and message boards and what-have-you, catching up on what I have been missing over the past year (quite a lot, as it turns out!, and some really interesting stuff!). I expect to continue in that vein for a while.

Once I do return to completing another fan contribution, what will it be?

The obvious choice is my ethnography of the Tsandáli Clan. It is my pet project, and has been for some years now, and it was, after all, the raison d'etre for starting this blog in the first place. Unfortunately, that is not a project that will reach completion any time soon. At the moment, the Tsandáli monograph stands at about 76 pages, about half of it rough notes. I have 12 illustrations complete, but that too is only about half of what I envision for the final product. And the ones that remain are the most complex illustrations I have planned. At a guess, I would estimate this study will come in at 120-150 pages, half-again or twice as large as Naval Warfare. This is looking like a deliverable for 2017 at the earliest.

There is another option. Believe me, I hate to defer the poor Tsandáli yet AGAIN to focus on something I can achieve faster, but I god help me, I am considering it.

See, I do have another essay lurking in the background, and that is a study of monasticism and monasteries in Tsolyánu. This was actually my first attempt at writing pseudo-scholarly Tékumel non-fiction, something I started back in the mid-90s. I abandoned it years ago because of difficulties in modelling how a monastic tradition might arise in a Tsolyáni cultural context. Sure I came up with a theory, but the more I looked at it, the more my theory seemed to be not only non-canon (which I am totally cool with) but significantly counter-canon (which I am not so cool with). The end result just didn't feel right. Nevertheless, there is some stuff in there I am pretty happy with, and even allowing for mission creep, I like to think a re-worked version might come in at 20-25 pages, a third the length of Naval Warfare. I only have one illustration that might work for this piece (on the cover), and no ideas for other illustrations to add, but if the scope could be kept to 20-25 pages, I might be okay with having no internal art at all.

Anyway, something I will be considering over the weeks to come....

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Naval Warfare on Tékumel - done and available for free download!

I must apologize for the long time that has passed since my last post (over a year!)

There are two reasons for the lapse in activity. The first is that it has been a busy year for me workwise. The second is that I have kind of kept myself cloistered from the Tékumel community at large, trying to devote my limited Tékumel time to completing my essay on naval warfare. I had really hoped to have it done in 2015, the 40th anniversary of the release of EPT. Obviously I didn't quite manage that, but close. The essay is finally done. Or as done as it is going to be.

The finished piece is an 81-page pdf, about 4.5meg in size. Pretty reasonable, I think.

If you would like a copy, just click the cover image at right to get the Dropbox link.

So what all are you getting? Well, it is a primer on naval warfare on Tékumel. Section 1 is a brief introduction. Section 2 discusses the history of naval warfare on Tékumel. Section 3 deals with naval architecture and the organization of fleets in the Five Empires. Section 4 covers the "modern" practice of naval warfare. Section 5 describes two historical naval engagements, to illustrate the points raised in Section 4. Section 6 offers some brief concluding observations. This is followed by a rather lengthy section of endnotes and then a brief list of references cited.

Now, a few words about what this essay isn't:

1) It isn't "official" canon Tékumel. It is a completely unofficial fan essay. In fact, there are a few instances (clearly identified in endnotes) where I explicitly depart from canon fact. Moreover, in the Tékumel of my imagination, it is still the reign of the 61st Seal Emperor Hirkáne “The Stone Upon Which the Universe Rests.” For me, subsequent canon historical events have not happened yet (and may never happen). The disclaimer required by the Tekumel Foundation for fan work appears on the first page of the Table of Contents.

2) It isn't a set of naval wargame rules. This is a pure fluff piece. I originally envisioned it as a naval equivalent of Professor Barker's "Military Formations of the Nations of the Universe" article published in the Dragon Magazine back in 1977. Although the scope grew over time, it is still intended to serve the same kind of role.

3) It isn't a quick read. I have to admit the style is a little pedantic and pseudo-scholarly. In fact, I even made the layout reminiscent of a social sciences monograph series from the 1950s-1970s. No apologies for that, it is just how I roll. Besides there was sometimes more than a hint of pedantry in the Professor's own work on Tékumel! Personally, I always kind of liked that....

4) It isn't professionally-illustrated. There are illustrations, in fact you will have seen a few samples already on this blog. I guess I would describe the style as "enthusiastic amateur" rather than professional. A professional artist could surely have done better, but for me, some of the fun of fan-non-fiction is building it yourself, so, for better or for worse, that's what I did.

5) It probably isn't for the newcomer to Tékumel. Prior familiarity with the world of Tékumel is assumed.

Anyhoo, if you aren't put off by what it ISN'T and you think you might be interested in what it IS, please feel free to download a copy. It should be a quick download, and it's free. I hope you find it interesting, and maybe even useful.


(ps Any problem with the download link, please let me know. I think it works, but I haven't used Dropbox before, so there could be glitches)

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Tekumeláni Naval Warfare: Some Progress

So next year will be the 40th anniversary of the original publication of Empire of the Petal Throne, and 2015 has been proclaimed "The Year of Tékumel!"

Given my patchy attention to this blog over the past year, I probably shouldn't commit to producing anything to mark the occasion, but certainly, I would like to produce something Tekumeláni in 2015. More to the point, I would like to finish something Tekumeláni in 2015!

To that end, I have decided to return to my naval treatise, probably the most finishable of my personal Tékumel projects.

And I have made some progress!

Until recently, the draft document focused on individual vessel tactics; fleet and flotilla deployments got short shrift. Now though, I have blocked out all of the principal naval formations and evolutions employed in the Five Empires. These are to be illustrated by discussing three fairly large historical naval actions: First Penóm in 2,019 A.S. (the Mu'uglavyáni invasion), Second Penóm in 2,020 A.S. (between the Tsolyáni relieving fleet and the Mu'ugalavyáni rear guard), and a more obscure action near Keruná in Háida Pakála, in 2,293 A.S., between Pakalayáni pirates and a Salarvyáni punitive expedition.

I have blocked out the stories for each of these battles. Otherwise, progress on the battles is mixed; I have a complete series of maps for the action near Keruná, a partial series for First Penóm, and no maps yet for Second Penóm.

Certainly, the maps are slowing me down. Originally I had planned to do very simple black and white maps, with simple ellipses for the shipses, and no over-elaborate Tekumeláni design hoo-hah. If I had stuck with that plan, I might be well on my way to finishing. Unfortunately, but perhaps predictably, I just couldn't leave well enough alone. I just had to Tékumelize the maps. Evidently, I am all about the elaborate Tekumeláni design hoo-hah.

So now, it will be a bit of a slog, but I have to make my battle maps look more like this:

(This particular map shows the opening dispositions at First Penóm. The Mu'ugalavyáni to the left are just "shaking out" from their convoy columns, the Tsolyáni blocking force is deployed to the right)

One depressing thing about putting a lot of work into Tékumelizing maps is that niggling feeling that it is only a waste of time. After all, we all know that Tekumeláni don't really make maps, not in the sense that we make maps. Yes they make "picture maps" but a picture map really wouldn't serve my purpose here. So here I am, trying to add Tékumel flavour to maps that perhaps could never exist on Tékumel.

On the other hand, we do know that Tekumeláni do make specialized military maps, showing blocks of troops, movement arrows etc. I don't know what those maps look like, but they sound similar to Terran battle maps. So maybe, just maybe, these Tékumel-styled naval maps are something a Tsolyáni Changkérdukoi (Admiral) might recognize...

Sunday, November 9, 2014

On Returning in the Fall

Well, it is Fall once again. Another field season over, another chance to relax, however briefly, and return to Tekumel for a bit. And another chance to reflect on the decline in my blog contributions this year! Good lord, worse than last year by far. Ah well. I think this year I shall keep mum about my Tekumel ambitions and just hope for the best. In the meantime, I have some catching up to do. I expect lots has happened on Chirine's workbench over the last few months. There will be news on the F/fate of Tekumel. And more, much more! And, quite exciting, it appears that there is a new blog out there about Tekumelani foodways and how to mimic them on earth. And best of all, by an author whose Tekumel stuff I have always enjoyed tremendously! I am seriously looking forward to this! Oh yes, and I see I have a couple of very interesting emails to return, too. No idea how long my nexus point to Tekumel will remain open this time, but I will try to make the most of it!

Sunday, January 19, 2014


Apparently my refusal to sign up for Google+ means that I can no longer post comments on some of the blogs I like to pay attention to. Oh well. Even if I can no longer respond, at least I can still read them (until Google+ decides to forbid that too!).

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Prospect and Retrospect

Apparently the new year is the time to reflect on the past and the future of one's blog. So, two weeks in, here goes:


Ten posts in 2013. Now I am never going to be posting every day, or even every week, but surely I can manage once a month or better. I hereby resolve to do so. At least as an average (the summer months may be quiet for the foreseeable future).


I originally intended this blog to be quite narrowly-focused on the ethnography of the Tsandali Clan. Secondarily perhaps on Tekumelani naval warfare. I guess I have kept to that mandate fairly well. But I do suffer from distractibility: new ideas that get ahold of me and push away older projects. The Tsandali monograph is a prime example, relegating my naval warfare piece to long-term draftdom.

More recently, the map of the First Imperium, an idea that has been lurking for about six months and took over this fall. Actually, I had intended to work up a whole gamers guide to the First Imperium, pulling together what little we know about cities, clans, deities, history, architecture etc. and fleshing out the rest with unofficial fluff from my own imagination. The map was only supposed to be a part of that. But I really don't want to add any major projects until I have finished something. So for now, I am going to stop with the map. Maybe a gamers guide one day. Maybe not.

The art element has been fun. I like learning more and more about how to draw, and the blog has forced me to tinker more. Although, according to my countryman at the Tao of D&D what I derive from it is likely classified as "satisfaction" rather than "fun." Perhaps he is right. It is satisfying, not so much because I am ever satisfied with the result, but because each time I finish a map or a picture I learn something that opens up new possibilities for the next one.


I really have to update my links. Some sites, some yahoo groups, have disappeared over the last year.

Most notably and most recently, itself!!! WTF?

There are also some part-time Tekumel blogs I have discovered, and I should add those to my list.

On a related note, you may notice that I am not listed as "following" any blogs. That is because following/joining seems to require Friend Connect or Google+ and I am not yet convinced I really want to go there. But make no mistake, if you have a Tekumel related blog and I know about it, I am following you!

I follow some non-Tekumel gaming-related blogs as well, just because they have some quality of coolness. Maybe at some point I will post about the ones I follow and why.


Okay, so here are my Tekumel-related plans for the coming year, more-or-less in order of priority:

1) Get back into some sculpting. I am determined to complete a portrait figure for a certain warrior-priest of Vimuhla. I expect I will do it in polymer clay, since it is a material I have at hand, and understand. But I would rather experiment with kneadatite, if I can find it somewhere I can just go to the store and pick it up.

2) Complete the environmental setting for Tenkare Prefecture. The complex tropical forest ecosystem of the Kikertla Hills still needs to be finalized. I have reduced my remaining art ambitions for this section to one cross-section of the valley, and one wildlife illustration. I do have a sketch of two little creatures chattering in the trees, but I haven't really tried to draw Tekumelani animals before, so it is a challenge finishing this.

3) Getting back to the Naval essay. I have no further artwork ambitions other than some simple maps of sea battles, so it is all about text, but still. Ever since I started on the Tsandali, I am afraid they (the Tsandali) have priority.

4) Project X. Something much more directly game-oriented than anything else I have even considered producing (I have not been an active gamer for 30 years). But I don't even want to think about this until I have some closure on my other more fluff-focused interests. So enough about that. Probably not this year.