Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Excellent Travelling Volume: a review

Many Tekumel fanzines have popped up over the years. The Tekumel Journal was the first in 1977 and Seal of the Imperium the most recent (1999-2009). My first game writing was published in The Journal of Tekumel Affairs, consisting an Amulet Determination Table similar to the Eye Chart from Dragon #4 and an Imperial Dispatch. So the Tekumel fanzines are very close to my heart.

There's a new Tekumel fanzine in town. +James Maliszewski's The Excellent Travelling Volume is the latest in the long history of Tekumel fanzines. I just received my copy last week, and I thought a review was in order.

Jim's introduction to the print-only zine explains that it focuses on Empire of the Petal Throne (EPT), because that's what he uses at home in his campaign.

The first section has some minor modifications to EPT to correct some leftover D&Disms. First, realigning Alignment from Good vs. Evil to Stability vs. Change, and also renaming Magic Users to Lay Priests, as described in Swords and Glory.

Next comes a new class for EPT, the Shaman. Jim has created a nice, well-thought out class. The Professional Skills are all spells, like the Lay Priest (formerly Magic User). Bonus Spells for the Shaman are also included, many of them translated from the Swords and Glory magic system. Any 'Fresh Off the Boat' scenario utilizing barbarians from distant lands should have a Shaman or two along.

The Patrons section includes five patrons, each with four variations on ways of using them with the PCs. Jim gives enough of a personality description to define these patrons while still leaving room for referee customization.

In the Bestiary, twelve creatures are translated from The Tekumel Bestiary to EPT, bringing some new blood to your animal and underworld encounters. The bizarre A'ab, the Bazhaq -- the only known riding beast for humans, used by the Tane, the debris-hidden Churstalli, the Dlikken -- a large segmented worm related to the Epeng, the Gayacha, the Hlu'un, the Jajgi -- the exalted undead, and a few more.

Six new Magical Devices are presented in the next chapter. These are at the level of Miscellaneous Magic Items. Since many magical devices are unique, it's always nice to have more.

Lastly, The Hidden Shrine, a short beginning adventure. This adventure is suitable for characters of levels 1 through 3. The lovely map was drawn by +Simon Forster. A priestess of Ksarul hires the PCs to investigate a shrine to Ksarul in the hills. The adventure contains several Tekumelisms that cleatrly show this is Tekumel.

In all, the first issue of The Excellent Travelling Volume is a great start to the new fanzine.

Congrats, Jim.

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