Friday, March 2, 2012

The Jakallan Underworld

With the recent talk about a future release of the Jakallan Tsu'urum in the works, I thought it might be a good time to prime the pump of demand by describing what it is in its current form.

Decades ago, I received a copy of Barker's original Jakallan underworld from an agent of the O.A.L. It consists of a huge map of the first level (probably 30" x 30"), a two page map of the second level (about 12" x 18"), and a one page map of the third level. Along with the maps, it has about 40 pages of typewritten room descriptions.

The maps contain many areas described in EPT and the Sourcebook as being in the underworld, such as trap that teleports you to deadly Queen Nayari's throne room and the Garden of Weeping Snows. These well-defined dungeon 'specials' are scattered across the maps, connected by standard, Old School, D&D-style random dungeon areas, with their meaningless passageways, secret doors, traps, and monsters. Room descriptions in these undefined places are simple (e.g."6 Qol, 4 lapis worth 200K under rubbish in the corner". Numerous walls could be punched through with a pick or shovel, since they are a pencil-width thick on the map.

Barker has said that this map was strongly influenced by D&D and does not represent the real state of Tekumelani underworlds. The process of dritlana razes all but the basements of buildings and then fills them in with rubble, building the next city on top. Then, in order to get to the ancient shrines deep within the ground, the temples excavate some of those debris-filled passages to connect up with the hallways lower down. The creatures that live down below also dig out new dens and perhaps even new exits from the underworld.

So, according to the Professor, the underworld 'specials' are connected by a relatively small number of tunnels that crisscross one another occasionally, with some traps and secret doors to prevent folks from just waltzing in and making off with the goods. The "every 10 foot square is used" format of early (and many not so early) dungeons would not be used.

Also, there are some extremely cool things right on the first level of the underworld. I think many of these locales, like Nayari's throne room, are actually much deeper.

Rather than simply publishing the old underworld of 1975, I'd like to see the foundation add a chapter on how to make the original conform with a more realistically Tekumelani underworld map.

One of these days, I am going to take my existing map, photocopy it, and take a scissors to it, cutting out the 'specials' and redrawing the rest of the map.


  1. I have not participated in the Tekumel culture at all, but in the Glorantha fandom. There you can clearly see how the early materials are quite ridiculous, but also obviously done with care and someone had great fun doing it.

    Greg Stafford and his cohorts have worked hard on making it "real" in later years, and frankly, some of that more realistic stuff is boring as hell. It makes for Anthropology 101 in a land that does not exist.

    I wonder if this is a natural development when you have such a complex creation as Tekumel or Glorantha? For the pure enjoyment of exploring a secondary world, I think the later more "realistic" world is amazing, but for gaming I often think the older weirder stuff is far better.

    Just a related remark, as it were.

  2. I definitely get the realistic vs. fun aspect. The goal to me as a GM is keeping it realistic and fun.