Saturday, December 15, 2012

Interview with Jim Harland - Part Four of Nine

My game room. Cosy, ain't it?

Jim Harland publishes the "harlandski" blog [Link in the left column for you] from Central Asia, and contacted me last month to ask me some questions. I'm reprinting the conversation for your amusement, with his cooperation...

Jim's questions are in >italics, and my replies are in the plain text. In about a week, I'll save these posts as pages so they are available for you.

>I've now surfaced after my D&D game at the weekend (I try to give the
>players genuine options, which means we end up playing about 30% of what I
>prepare, but I enjoy the prep as much as the playing so that's OK). Thank
>you once again for your detailed answers! I had to laugh at the idea of
>people taking such an interest in the type of dice Arneson used!

    Yes, that's one of the most-asked questions, along wiht what 'brand' of dice he and Gary used, like it makes any difference. It was, in those far-off days, all about something called 'imagination'; that seems to have gotten lost, somehow.

    Agreed about only about 30% of the material getting used, too. Save the rest; it'll be useful later! :)

>Also good to see that you're blogging and setting some targets post
>'dying'. I'm impressed by your tenacity - it seems that will and ability to
>survive is something that you and Chirine ba Kal share!

    I'll be like that until they carry me away, I think; my dad was the same, and he survived the best that the Imperial Japanese Army could throw at him.

>What you say about magic makes a lot of sense, and is helpful in connecting
>the functioning of spells and 'eyes' with one underlying logic. Do you know
>what (if any) literature might have influenced Barker in this understanding
>of magic? (In the way that Jack Vance's Dying Earth series is said to have
>influenced Gygax). Or was it more or less his own creation?

    Phil was involved in SF fandom in the 1950s, and knew Jack Vance quite well. He drew a map of the Dying Earth for Jack in 1952 or so, and they wrote back and forth to each other quite a lot. I'd guess that Vance influenced Barker, and Barker influenced Gygax, if the letters I've seen are any indication.

    With Phil's 'technic' magic, as long as one can keep the spell 'circuits' juggled in one's head, (based on INT, DEX, and STA stats) then one can have as many spells ready as possible. Of course, the chance of 'dropping the ball' with Very Bad Results increases... :)

>Also useful to have the explanation about Chirine ba Kal's particular
>magic. I had got the impression from To Serve the Petal Throne that there
>was something unique going on, beyond his specially adjusted armour.

    Yep. I'm unique. I can do a very few things that normal magic users do, but then there's things like The Lens Of Power which is very rare. The armor is a tool for focusing the energies, and acts like a wearable printed circuit board to help get things focused and running.

>Thanks also for the linguistic information about Chirine ba Kal's name. I
>just bought 'The Tsolyani Language' from DriveThruRPG, and look forward to
>getting deeper into the linguistics! I also need to work out where "Chakan"
>fits into it, but I can probably do that myself with reference to EPT or
>Professor Google.

    Ah! The 'Chakas' are the two forested frontier provences / protectorates that lie between Tsolyanu and Mu'ugalvya. They get fought over all the time, and also act as major barriors to any sort of large-scale invasion in either direction. Accroding to Phil, I spoke Tsolyani with a Chakan accent. he's flip back and forth between a Jakallan and a Bey Su / Bey Sy accent, and I should see about sending you a copy of the Tsolyani language pronunciation tape he made for me back about 1982. I have it as a .wmv file, I think. Chirine is a native of the Chakas, and was educated at the First Temple of Vimuhla in the southern portion of the area.

>I'm interested in the switch you made from EPT to 'Swords and Glory'. How
>was that? I see that 'Swords and Glory' is available in print from Tita's
>House of Games, but it seems that there is no electronic version on sale,
>which is a shame for me as I am pretty much dependent on electronic
>versions of English-language books out here in Kazakhstan. What Tekumel
>game(s) do you still play today? From your miniatures I see you play
>Qadardalikoi (which you co-designed, right?), but what for roleplaying?

    The switch was actually pretty easy. Phil never really liked any of the rules, even the ones he'd written, as he felt that they cramped his story-telling style. W always used the EPT stats and combat system, with the much nicer S&G spell system grafted on. It worked just fine. These days, I have PCs rolled up in all three games (EPT, S&G / Gardasiyal, and T:EPT) and I just do the conversions in my head because I know how *relatively* powerful each of the PCs is in each system.

    So, the answer is that I use Phil's house rules (we both roll dice, and the high roller's view of reality prevails), modifed as needed by all three published rules sets.

    We also use this for small-scale miniatures combats as part of the RPG sessions, and my rules get used for The Big Battles, which is what they were written for. I designed "Qadardalikoi", with lots of input from Phil to make sure that the rules reflected the way he wanted battles to play on in his world. Dyed-in-the-woad 'Ancients' Players *** hate *** the rules, as they want a Terran 'Ancients' rules set 'with funny hats on' for Tekumel.

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