For those of you interested in Old School gaming, the Tékumel Foundation just announced the release of new new hardcover and softcover editions of Empire of the Petal Throne. (Here is the link directly to the the books on DriveThruRPG.)
Empire of the Petal Throne is a fantasy role-playing game designed by M. A. R. Barker, based on his Tékumel fictional universe, which was self-published in 1974, then published by TSR, Inc. in 1975. It was one of the first tabletop role-playing games, along with Dungeons & Dragons. Over the subsequent thirty years, several new games were published based on the Tékumel setting, but to date none have met with commercial success. While published as fantasy, the game is sometimes classified as science fantasy or, debatably, as science fiction.
James Maliszewski posted about Empire of the Petal Throne on his Grognardia blog:
Of course, very few gamers love Tékumel for its rules. It’s the fabulous pulp fantasy world that makes this game stand head and shoulders above its contemporaries…
I never ever saw a copy of the original rules until the late 90s. I knew of the setting, naturally, at least in broad outline — a colony world in the far future gets mysteriously shunted into its own pocket dimension where magic works. That the setting’s creator, M.A.R. Barker, was a professor of linguistics with firsthand experience of India and Pakistan, as well as a lifelong love for the pulp greats, Egyptology, and ancient American civilizations pretty much ensure that it’d be like nothing anyone had ever seen — and it is.
Tékumel is amazingly cool: a brilliant cross between a sword-and-planet and dying earth setting that evokes writers like Burroughs, Howard, Smith, and Vance without being a pastiche of any one of them. Far moreso than OD&D, Empire of the Petal Throne is a game that wears its pulp fantasy roots on its sleeve, provided you’re willing to look beneath its baroque surface. Like many things about Tékumel, its literary origins are hidden, sometimes in plain sight. It’s also the only game I’ve ever encountered that includes culturally sophisticated rationales for dungeon crawling that enables expeditions into the Underworld to serve as the axis around which a larger campaign could be structured. But then this is an old school RPG of the first rank, so this should come as no surprise.
Both the hardcover and softcover versions have the following:
- The full text of the original TSR edition of Empire of the Petal Throne as published in a boxed set in 1975
- Errata for the original TSR edition
- A Citizenship Document and translation
- A map of Jakálla – The City Half As Old As the World
- A B&W map of the Five Empires
- Reference Charts from the original TSR boxed set
$19.95 for the softcover and $24.95 for the hardcover version. The Foundation has also updated the PDF version of the rules; it is still a picture scan of the rules, but it is precisely the same as the text included with the print-on-demand edition. They intend to make a text-searchable version available free to customers who have bought the PDF, as they move ahead with other projects.