Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The Dragon #4

Issue #4 of The Dragon is a spotlight on Empire of the Petal Throne (henceforth referred to as EPT). As such, I won't be going into too much detail here. Yes, I am hoping to use Tekumel as a world that the PCs might stumble into, but given that this world has little bearing on the history of D&D I think it best not to get bogged down in the material. Especially when I have little grounding in the material myself.

I'll begin with the ubiquitous list of articles that will have no bearing on my campaign. Dragon Rumbles has an editorial by Tim Kask bigging up the merits of Empire of the Petal Throne. Miscellaneous Oddball D&D Stuff is once again pure parody, and I have to say that there's a lot of this type of thing in the early days of the mag. As with other unsubtle parodies, it gets tossed out. Wizards Defined is yet another humour article that runs down the capabilities (or lack thereof) of various levels of Magic-User. Mapping the Dungeons is still chugging along with names and addresses. Wargaming World shows some D&D and EPT figures, including some lovely pig-faced orcs. Finieous Fingers continues the classic strip. The Temple of Vimuhla shows an intricate model of this building from Tekumel as designed by MAR Barker, the creator of the setting. The focus of the article isn't that useful to me, but there are some small details about Tekumel to be gleaned here. Recommended Reading is the precursor to AD&D's Appendix N. Gary gives here a list of inspirational fantasy books, with the usual suspects like Tolkien, Howard, Lieber, Lovecraft and Moorcock. It also has a number of things not included in the AD&D version. I'll have to do a comparison one day.

Reports Submitted to the Petal Throne: This is a follow-up to an article from The Strategic Review #7, which featured a number of plot hooks in the form of missives to the Emperor. For that article I did a detailed write-up of the various hooks, but this time I'll stick to more general terms. The article begins with Professor Barker reporting on some goings-on in various EPT campaigns that differ from his own. He declares that each EPT campaign is an equally valid parallel universe. This won't ever come up in my campaign, but I found it a nice touch from Barker nonetheless.

The missives given here are a varied bunch. The first deals with the drug Zu'ur, and is a follow-up to events detailed in the last article. Another involves people being kidnapped and forced into a life as guards of the Tolek Kana Pits. It goes on. I'll be reviewing all of these plot hooks and working them into my campaign when time comes. But it really gives a vivid picture of the strangeness and political intrigues of Tekumel. It's a fascinatingly alien setting.

Notes on Androids in the Starship Warden: Ah, the lone non-EPT article in the issue. It describes the origin of the androids in the game Metamorphosis Alpha, and their infiltration of the various human factions on the ship. Given that Gary has had D&D characters taken to the Starship Warden, I'll definitely be including it in my campaign, along with the info in this article.

Jakalla Encounters: It's a chart for random encounters in the Foreigners' Quarter of the city of Jakalla (from EPT). It has the standard encounters with beggars, drunks, street toughs, muggers and pickpockets. There is also a pimp encounter, with the possibility that the pimp will try to hire any character who is beautiful. The beggar ancounter will occasionally be a noble or god in disguise, which I find awesome, especially given the propensity of PCs to mistreat the beggar population. There is also an encounter with priests of the Goddess of the Pale Bone, which is just an unbearably rad name.

The Battle of the Temple of Chanis, 2020 A.S.: This is a lengthy article about a large-scale battle, complete with fictionalised account from one of the soldiers involved therein. This battle will of course be a part of the history of Tekumel in my campaign, and the characters described will be NPCs (though possibly dead, depending on when this happens relative to the current game year). The account of the battle as written by one Chaeyan Tikkumeshmra will be available for the PCs to read in a library somewhere if they wish. I'd like to have it provide a clue to some larger mystery, but nothing springs to mind just yet.

Creature Features – The Mihalli: These creatures are humanoid shapechangers that were once nearly destroyed by nuclear fission bombs in a war with humanity. (Man, EPT sounds cooler with each tidbit I read.) They are completely alien in mindset and incomprehensible to humanity. This is simulated with a random dice roll. It's a nice touch, but in a way I think it undermines the inhuman intelligence I attribute to these guys. Alien, yes, but complete randomness could make them pretty ineffectual and incapable of realising any sort of goal.

Creature Features – The Vriyagga: These monsters dwell underground in the mythical 'City of Red-Tiled Roofs'. Given the weirdness of their description, I'll reproduce it below:

The Vriyagga is a creature to strike terror into the most heroic breast: a huge pair of wheel-like appendages revolve around central axes like the treads of a tank, powered by gnarled and knotted cores of muscle-fiber. A great central braincase hangs between these, and from the lower part of the parody of a face there depend four (or more in larger specimens) great tentacles covered with powerful suckers. The mouth is lined with poison-dripping purple feelers, which can also serve to kill and ingest its victims. The ebon eyes are like great black opals, drinking in all available light and allowing the Vriyagga to see in the dark.
Nice, and the illustration just cements the strangeness here. Generally it seems like these guys just lurk in their city and eat people that wander in, but that's classic D&D monster behavior. Not everything needs a motivation!

Roads from Jakalla: This piece of fiction involves a group of adventurers being hired to take a book to the Emperor to save a general from assassination by the Priestly Party. Rather surprisingly, they fail this mission, which leaves me free to use the plot as an adventure seed, and the characters herein as NPCs.

Percentile Roll to Obtain an "Eye" as Treasure in EPT: The 'Eyes' of EPT are powerful magic items, each type with different powers. This is a chart to randomly determine what type of Eye has been found. They all have awesome named like The Abominable Eye of Detestation and The Eye of Ruling as a King in Glory, but no further info is given on them here. My favourite is the Eye of Exquisite Power Over Maidens.

Next: Dungeon Geomorphs – Set One

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