Saturday, March 15, 2014

Endings, Beginnings - Continued (Part the Second)

Chirine's astrolabe.
(Kindly ignore the Post-it notes, please.)

As I mentioned in the last installment of this essay, I get a little reflective and philosophical about this time of the year. This past year, I've been ruminating about what amounts to a form of 'culture shock' - both for me and for what seems to be quite a few people I talk to.

I'm not a 'gamer'. None of the old original Thursday Night Group were 'gamers'. We were F/SF fans, artists, writers, and a model-builder. We split off from the original group of gamers that Phil had specifically because we were not 'gamers'; we wanted to explore Phil's creation, and so we went off on adventures and quests so Phil could tell the stories that he wanted to tell. He "made stuff up, and we had fun."

Certainly, we did some dice-rolling along the way, and we did some stuff with sets of rules. They provided the framework for our adventures, just like how the electronics in your monitor make my words appear on a glowing screen. We didn't worry about how the monitor worked; it was 'new technology' for us, and we simply went along with it. We didn't do a lot of 'critical peer review' of how Phil saw his Tekumel working; we accepted it as a given, I suspect because we were more concerned with staying alive then anything else.

Along the way, we'd ask questions to clarify what we were doing - not so much from the standpoint of 'wanting to get it right', but much more from the standpoint of 'oh, isn't this interesting!' Phil used to delight in showing off artifacts from his collection as a way of showing us what he thought his Tekumel looked like; swords, shields, maces, helmets, armor, clay jugs, flutes, reed pens, and all the other bric-a-brac of daily life in his world made their debut on the game table over the years and we 'ooohed' and 'aahhed!' more then a little bit. I still continue that tradition of 'play style'; very early on in my time with Phil, I started to pick up stuff that I thought that Chirine would be carrying around on his travels. I had a lot of fun lugging all of this out to show Phil, and he got a lot of amusement out of Chirine's assortment of baggage. (It was one of the things behind that amazing magical artifact, "The Inexorable Cart Of Chirine ba Kal".) Over the years, I managed to find just everything needed for gracious living 'on the road' in Tekumel, and it's all packed away in Chirine's travelling chests.

Over the years, quite a few of the 'real gamers' that I have talked to have had trouble understanding why we thought that this kind of thing was fun; our costumes, for example, have been cited (on the forum of 'RPG pundit', for example) of 'What's Wrong With Tekumel' and an example of why we're considered a "freak show" for what we've been doing for the past thirty-some years. We've been called quite a few uncomplimentary names over the years - those folks like Kathy Marshall, Jim Danielson, Rick Bjugen, and my humble self who did their best to explore Phil's world and try to share it with you.

Well, you know, everyone is entitled to their own opinion - something I firmly believe in. But it's also why I don't spend a lot of time on the Internet forums; I can either spend my very limited free time there, listening to some very rude people, or working on the various projects that I have in hand. I choose the latter; this leaves me, of course, stuck in the same little cul-de-sac that I have been in since 1976. I have to admit that I do like it here; it's quiet. I do have some company; but they are polite people who don't worry about the Dire Menace of 'Fake Nerd Girls!' and the Destruction Of The Hobby. We just do out thing, and have fun.

If you want to come along for the ride, you are welcome to; just don't expect a lot of tables, algorithms, and dice rolls...


  1. As I've said before, I'm not terribly au fait with Tekumel, although I've been aware of it since I started gaming back in the late '70s (just could never get my head round all the tricky names!) but for me, what you describe above, is everything that is RIGHT with Tekumel. I wish I could create a world where players actually felt so involved that they accumulated "real world" artefacts and crafted props to reflect their characters.

    I find this all very inspirational.

  2. Thank you! Your comment is really very welcome - I have gotten a lot of very negative feedback from 'real gamers' over the years about our 'immersion' style of gaming, and it's gotten old. I've been getting 'kicked' for some thirty years, now, and I've kind of had enough of it.

    We played with Phil for a very long time, almost two decades; I've been running my current game group for almost as long. We enjoy being so 'immersed' in our shared world that we make a real effort to have props and such for our games - in the one on Saturday, one player was trying to bribe another, and so I handed the would-be briber my carven wooden box of coins. The player displayed the box and the loot to the second player, who suavely and casually relieved the first player of the *** entire *** box. we laughed until we cried... :)

    - chirine

    1. Smells to me like jealousy, pure and simple. Not that there can be a wrong way to play - as long as the participants are enjoying themselves - but you were gaming with the setting's creator and I think that pretty much trumps whatever anyone else could ever say ;-)

      Personally I think your stories are the epitome of what gamers should be aiming for - if they want to create a rounded, immersive world at their table. These are stories you will remember and keep telling for years to come. And that's the sign of a great game.

      This is one of the reasons I'm so looking forward to your books seeing print as I love to read about these kinds of escapades.