Saturday, November 1, 2014

About Phil's Play Style, and all that lead (!)

The Yan Koryani, having snuck up to within bowshot of Castle Tilketl,
try to figure out how to get back out of bowshot...

Before I get into an account of how Phil worked up the little micro-campaign for Fortress Chalukolumel, would anyone mind if I talked about how we used to play out at Phil's? I'll be brief, and try not to be too boring...

Back in the day, we didn't have much of a sharp dividing line between what seems to be considered 'role-playing' these days and what I think is meant by 'wargames'; we floated back and forth between modes of play, with our player-characters usually having to take the lead and tell the NPC's what we'd like to get done - our characters were not only 'adventurers', but 'officers' and 'commanders' as the situation required. We were all supposed to be adaptable, and we tried very hard to cope with what Phil threw at us.

The fight at Castle Tilketl was a very good example of this; we played ourselves, and led several cohorts of infantry in the defense. It was a lot of fun to play out on the table, and Phil used a sort of 'mash-up' of his own EPT rules and my "Qadardalikoi" to run the thing; it was very fast-paced, and very nerve-wracking; Phil was very, very good on the table. We used my figures, as Phil was always very worried about the fragility of his own miniatures; his was the 'reference collection', and mine was the 'working collection'. He would get some of his figures out on special occasions, and it was always a very big deal when he did; I had to perform The Ritual Of The Keys, as Phil used some massive railroad padlocks on his cabinets. I counted them in and counted them out, and fixed anything that got broken during the game.

We were not 'rules heavy'; quite the opposite, in fact. We just moved the troops as needed, and didn't worry too much about 'accuracy' and 'realism'; if it looked good, and was fun, we did it - there was lots of swashbuckling and derring-do in our miniatures games.

And there were lots of figures, too. Both Phil and I loved to make and paint figures; he had very bad arthritis, and had trouble holding a brush as time went on. His eyesight was also very bad; Phil was legally blind, and unable to drive a car for just about most of his life. Me, I'm supposedly fast and good at this painting lark, so Phil would buy figures, I'd paint them, and he'd select which ones he wanted to keep for himself; I'd get the remainder as my 'fee', which is how my collection of Tekumel miniatures got started.

The 'custom of the house', out at Phil's, was that every new player would have a 'personality figure' to represent them on the table when we did our tactical displays. I'd get told to get cracking; Phil wanted the new figure by the next game session, which gave me a whole week to find a suitable figure, modify i if needed, and get it painted. Occasionally, Phil would be merciful and draw a quick little sketch of the person to be modeled, but most of the time I'd be told to do the research and get on with it. This is how I got to be so 'good at Tekumel', as Phil described it; it was sink or swim, down there in the deep end of the pool with the sharks as Phil was pretty picky about what landed on his table

So, we'd go off on an adventure, and we'd start getting miniatures together for what might befall us. I started building up the military units of the Five Empires, as well as the ever-useful things like city milita, temple guards, and all of the various priests and priestesses we'd meet and have to interact with. I freely admit that this meant - and still means! - that there's a lot of lead in the game room; the idea was that we would have enough miniatures to run any scenario with 'internal assets'; we'd all been stood up enough times in games here in the Twin Cites to know better then to rely on somebody bringing The Other Guys for a game.

Which means that I have armies (as we used to call them for our campaigns) for everybody:

The Tsolyani:
The heart of this army has always been Serqu, Sword of the Empire, backed up by the Legion of Red Devastation. Over the years, I built up each unit as it became available in miniature, with the goal of having twenty of each unit as the minimum; the idea here is that this is large enough for a miniatures game, but still small enough to have the figures for a role-playing game; in the wargame, each figure represents 100 soldiers, and in the RPG they are each one trooper. I did a lot of conversions, as I had to second-guess Phil quite a lot based on what we were doing in our adventures. A lot of RAFM, Grenadier, Ral Partha, Garrison, and Minifigs got used for both troops and adventurers. It's the largest of my armies, with the most numbers of figures and different units.

The Yan Koryani:
Slightly smaller in size then the Tsolyani, but very nicely filled out by Howard Fielding and The Tekumel Project. The core unit here has always been Valiant of Ke'er, and they are now ably supported by Tleku Miriya I and II, with my stalwart Ral Partha "Sea Elves with Pikes" still backing everyone up as the Gurek of Ngaku. Lots and lot of light infantry to cause trouble; I draft in the Nlyss for this as needed.

The Mu'ugalavyani:
Smaller yet, but really choice; fewer units were sculpted over the years, so the units here are larger but less diverse. This may be my favorite army - Victorious in Vimhula, the First Legion of the First Palace, has never, ever failed me on the battlefield. Once they are committed, the fight is pretty much over for the other side. This army is a little weak in missile troops, hence the previously reported dilemma.

The Salarvyani:
Quite the horde, with the Nchesh of the Mace of Steel forming the very solid core and surrounded by hordes of light infanty. A decent army, assuming they don't get any ideas and keep charging.

The Livyani:
The smallest of the Five Empires armies in the collection, this used to be just one unit - the Ral partha 'Deep Elves with Halberd" of the Llyneb of the Black Veil. This army has seen a lot of additions in the past five years, as Neal Cauley has managed to put me onto the track of the plastic elves from A Certain Company - the design style is very good for Livyanu, and the figures are cheap when bought used.

The Small States:
Something for everyone, from everywhere. I can put out about ten figures from all over, depending on where your tubeway car winds up.

The Non-humans:
Well, of course! What would Tekumel be without it's non-humans! I have about thirty to fifty of all the more military races, and usually a dozen each of the rest. I now have Hokun and Nyagga, and I'm writing new rules so we can have cavalry and underwater battles... :)

Everyone Else:
Dear old Captain Harchar's crew of "honest seafaring merchants", the city guard, the bearers, the Undead, priests, priestesses, Qol, lords, ladies, servants, and all the rest of the 'cast of thousands' that an epic setting like Tekumel really deserves. These are the 'extras' in our little productions, and add life and color to the scenes.

All of these miniatures are really 'game aids' - they help me tell my stories of life on Tekumel, and of our adventures with Phil. My players enjoy meeting these people in their own adventures; some of them are hated foes, and some trusted allies. It's all about the game; and while I freely admit to tending to do things in Cinema-Scope wide-screen spectaculars (eat your heart out, Mr. Jackson and Mr. De Mille!) it's still about what you do and how you play...


  1. Love it! So nice to hear how the gaming happened, especially the details on foreign legions like the "Victorious in Vimhula". Someone who knows these details should really write a "Deeds of the Other Glorious".

  2. Thank you - you are very welcome! As for a book, well, I'm getting there... :)

    Seriously, the data is all here; all it needs is for somebody to look it over...

    - chirine

  3. Don't be brief. I come here for these lovely exacting details (let's just get more pictures!). There is nothing boring at all about this sort of stuff, for me at least. It's interesting not only in and of itself, but it also gives me ideas for my own games.

    How the Professor played back in the day, how you play today - I find it endlessly fascinating in every detail. I would love it if I can make it up to your neck of the woods for a game some day, if you'll have me.

    1. Yes, of course you'd be welcome at the game table! That's what it's there for!

      I'll try to get more photos shot - I'm terrible at getting into a project, and forgetting all about taking pictures until too late...


      - chirine

  4. The more about miniatures, the better. John's idea about the legions of the other empires is especially intriguing.

    And now, for an odd question - it is well known that the temple of Sarku has 'legions' of undead. Can the temple of Ksarul produce enough Qol for legions? Would they fight as such above ground?

    1. Thank you for the input - I'll do my best!

      The Temple of Sarku uses mostly Undead like the Mr'ur and Vorlodla, mostly the former. They have vaults full of their 'late' worshippers handy, and can mobilize them as needed for Underworld fights - not so much surface battles, which is what got General Qutmu impaled at Sunraya.

      Qol are expensive to make, and the Squareheads charge the Big Kaitars for them if you are not a devotee of the Doomed Prince. You'll find hordes of Qol working for the Blue Light Brigade, but not so much for the Wormy Boys. When you do see them working for the Temple of Sarku, they are usually either 'on loan' or serving as officers for the Mr'ur.

      Miniatures-wise, you just can't go wrong with having lots of Qol; being living creatures, albeit artificial constructs, they can do much more then your basic Undead can.I tend to throw lots of Qol at my players when visiting the Temple of Ksarul, and lots and lots of 'Wargods of Aegyptus' or 'Reaper' mummies at them when visiting the Temple of Sarku.

      Speaking as a GM, one can never have enough Undead handy.

      Does this help?

      - chirine

    2. Thanks for the response. It makes sense that Qol are more rare than the undead.

      Now, this Blue Light Brigade sounds very interesting!