Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Tékumel Community: A History

In the beginning, a star system got sucked into a pocket dimension. Along with it came hundreds of roleplayers and wargamers -- the Tékumel community. In this article, I will go over the various things that have been done over the years to support communication between the far-flung fans of the Tékumel community, outside of rules and supplements and other published material.

Fanzines

Almost immediately, The Powers That Be sought to support the Tékumel community. In 1977, the first fanzine was published, The Tékumel Journal. Though it only lasted two issues, it was chock full of great articles. But there was no feedback. No means for the players to contact each other. The later fanzines (Imperial Miltary Journal and The Journal of Tékumelani Affairs) provided a means for players to have some of their adventure reports published (i.e. Imperial Dispatches), as well as a means to contact other people in their area. The last official fanzine was The Imperial Courier (Vol. 2 No. 2) in 1987.

It took the Internet to get the community to really talk to each other. 

Electronic Mailing Lists

The first attempt at getting these folks talking was my Tékumel Digest, a moderated electronic mailing list before the web existed. The first digest went out May 10, 1991, and it consisted of a single message from me about using Christopher Pound's language confluxer script to take Tsolyáni words and generate new Tsolyáni names from them. The Digest was constructed by hand, because I was not aware of any automated mailing list administrative software. People sent me their questions and comments, and I built the digest from them. I did this until I lost my regular email access at my employer when I got laid off in July 1992. Bob Alberti took over after that, continuing the Digest till August 1993. I store the archives for the Tékumel Digest at my website.

I don't know what we did until Chris Davis started The Blue Room in May 1995. Probably twiddled our thumbs and deconstructed Gardásiyal. The Blue Room was another email list, with the wonderful addition of Professor Barker making in-depth comments and answering questions. Over a thousand messages were exchanged until June 2000, when circumstances ended The Blue Room. The Blue Room Archives are stored in the file section of the Tékumel mailing list. This is one of the definitive sources of information outside of the rule books, second only to The Tékumel Sourcebook for solid information. I still research topics in the archives of this tremendous resource. Luckily, there is a handy search engine to assist the erstwhile GM in finding out esoteric answers.

The next venture into electronic communication was the Tékumel list on OneList.com, started in February 2000. This list is still going, even after OneList.com was bought by eGroups.com, which was subsequently bought by Yahoo! Groups. Yahoo provides some file storage for the group. Numerous other groups have arisen as well, though most of them get little or no traffic now.

Tekumel-related Yahoo Groups
  • tekumel: The main Tékumel group. Active.
  • apatekumel: Visitations of Glory, the Tékumel Amateur Press Association (APA). No issues since Feb 2008. The files section contains most of the issues of the apazine, as well as Tekumel.com.
  • tekumelnovels: Discussion of Man of Gold and Professor Barker's other novels. Last message in 2009.
  • tsolyani: For the discussion of the Tsolyáni language. This summer they had a VOIP teleconference.
  • savage_tekumel: A group for developing a set of Savage Worlds rules for Tékumel. The author of this rule set posted drafts in 2009. Nothing has been posted since then.
  • tekumel-moderated: This group was originally intended to emulate The Blue Room, with questions submitted and answered by the Professor and his minions, leaving the Tékumel group for free-flowing, sometimes rancorous, discussions without moderation. Since the Professor has less energy for this type of activity, this group has been slow for a couple years.
  • TekumelArt: For the dissemination of fan art related to Tékumel, as well as discussion of various methods of producing said art, such as electronic means. Not much traffic.
  • TekumelMinis-War: This group is for talking about Tékumel miniatures and wargaming. The new figures have helped revitalize this group, which has recent activity.
  • tenebrousplaces: This group publishes Tenebrous Places: The Magazine for People Being Pursued by the Undead, a stylish graphic magazine with a humorous slant, as well as other graphical constructs of the moderator. It's been a couple years since the last post of substance, but the archives are well worth looking at.
I'm sure if people participated, people on these lists would respond, and perhaps the less active groups could be revived.


Bulletin Boards and Forums

There have been a few bulletin boards and forums for discussing Tékumel. The first I was aware of was Bill Cumberland's Tékumel discussion board on the Shadowlands BBS out of Vancouver, B.C. that lasted from 1991-94. Because it was a BBS, it had limited participation, since it required a phone call to use. The advent of the Web killed BBSes as they were (and Shadowlands was no exception), though some managed to reinvent themselves as mailing lists or web sites. (Shadowlands Archive available.)

For a long time before the Intarwebz, Usenet supplied one of the functions for keeping people connected. This was a large set of forums where people discussed everything, including Tékumel. alt.games.frp.tekumel existed for a long time as a low volume newsgroup, but Usenet also succumbed to the Web. Archives of a particularly active period from 1994-95 are held in the Weird Realm repository.

The latest excursions into forum communication are the Tékumel Forums on the official Tekumel.com site. Peter Gifford of Enmore, NSW, Australia added forum software to the site in May 2005. There are numerous discussions there that need more readers and responders. I encourage you to check it out and participate.

Social Media

The Tekumel Facebook group is gets a fair amount of traffic. If you use FB a lot, check it out.

The Tékumel Google+ Community is brand new and quite active. I really like how it's taken off and brought new people into the bethorm of Tekumel. 

This concludes my review of the means by which the Tékumel community keeps in touch. I hope this helps you find people to talk about Tékumel with, as well as provide some support for playing and refereeing in Tékumel. Enjoy.