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Tabletop Game / Empire of the Petal Throne

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Highly nonstandard fantasy game created by M.A.R.note  Barker. First officially published in 1975.

The setting is Tékumel, home of the Tsolyani Empire and several other civilizations, both human and not.

This work contains examples of:

  • After the End: multiple ends actually, including the "Latter Times" (sometime after the "Time of Darkness" when Tékumel dropped into a pocket dimension nearly 50,000 years ago), to the more current (5,000 or so years ago) collapse of the worldwide empire of Engsvan Hla Ganga.
  • Aliens Never Invented the Wheel: Actually, humans forget about the wheel for the most part, in their decline from technological civilization to agrarian culture. They have the wheel, but they have nothing like a horse for wheeled vehicles, and lost the idea for the bicycle.
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  • All Planets Are Earthlike: Only because the ancient settlers made Tékumel that way, installing gravity generators, suppressing the native life forms, and cultivating various reserves. The reserves later mingled, after a great disaster, averting the Single-Biome Planet.
  • Apocalypse How: Tékumel has survived unorthodox planetary destruction (dropped into a pocket dimension) and multiple societal collapses.
  • Bizarre Alien Sexes: All over the place. Shén, Tinalíya, and Pygmy Folk have three genders, while the Hlüss and Ssú have hive-like arrangements. The Ahoggyá are rumored to have eight genders, and nobody knows how they reproduce.
  • Blue and Orange Morality: The aliens have, well, alien morality systems, and the humans have various group-oriented moral systems that are not at all modern Western.
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  • Clarke's Third Law: Most magic artifacts (called "eyes") actually are objects of highly advanced technology, of which all memories have been lost in a cataclysm.
  • Conlang: This universe has some of the first examples, the most developed by far being Tsolyáni, the others being Yán Koryáni, Livyáni, Engsvanyáli and Sunúz. There are grammar books for all of them, and Tsolyáni even has a dictionary and a pronunciation guide. Barker developed Tékumel for basically the same reasons Tolkien did: to build a language around. The results (there are several) are a combination of conversion and original.
    • Eternal English: Completely averted. English is the dead language of a long-dead culture.
    • Language Drift: The setting has changed over tens of thousands of years, and drift applies.
    • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Tsolyani, at least, tends to flowery language and titles, including 27 forms of the pronoun "you".
  • Culture Chop Suey: See Mayincatec below.
  • Horse of a Different Color: Averted, as there are no riding animals. There are draft animals, the chlen, and small pack animals, the hma, though.
  • I Know Your True Name: Supplement The Book of Ebon Bindings. Each sapient being (including humans, deities and demons) has a secret Name of Power. It is possible to gain control over any such being except one of the gods using its Name of Power. Lesser beings use their Name of Power to petition their deity and enter into pacts with beings more powerful than themselves. Calling out a being's Name of Power draws its attention, and doing so with a demon's Name of Power can allow it to leave its place in the Planes Beyond and enter Tékumel.
  • Lost Technology: Tékumel is riddled with devices from the Time of Darkness and the Latter Times that are just barely comprehensible to modern Tékumelani, including an underground antigravity car system.
  • Mayincatec: The whole setting is a blend of Mesoamerican, Indian, Mogul, Chinese, and certain African cultures.
  • Metal Poor Planet: Metal is rare. See Organic Technology, below.
  • Multicultural Alien Planet: Multicultural and multiple alien species, although humans are generally dominant.
  • Order Versus Chaos: Or, in this case, Stability and Change, with attendant parallel pantheons, and not necessarily at odds.
  • Organic Technology: Of a sort. Metal is rare, but the chlen sheds its skin regularly, and the skin can then be chemically processed and shaped into a leather as hard as bronze, including armor and hand weapons.
  • Our Monsters Are Different: Some of the creatures on Tékumel are Expies of standard fantasy role-play monsters, but they are distinctly different from your average D&D hack-ups.
  • Our Monsters Are Weird: The monsters and other creatures are a hash chili of Earth creatures, genetically engineered Earth animals, alien creatures, native species, and possibly extradimensional creatures, all to some extent evolved over tens of thousands of years of history and adaptation. Some are friendly, some are neutral, some are hostile, some are animals, others intelligent, and most are exotic. No elves, dwarves, gnomes, goblins, trolls, or other standard Western fantasy creatures.
  • Pocket Dimension: The whole solar system dropped into a pocket dimension eons ago.
  • Psychic Powers: How magic is justified. The psychic powers of humans are juiced by contact or near proximity of superpowerful beings from Another Dimension.
  • The Right of a Superior Species: Humans are the ones who did this when they invaded Tékumel. The native Ssu and Hluss were living together in peace, and had about the kind of technology that we have now in Real Life. Humans had developed far a more advanced starfaring civilization, so "obviously" the Tékumelani species were inferior. Humans had no problem allying peacefully with other advanced starfaring species, but they terraformed the hell out of Tékumel, rearranged its orbit and even gravity, and tried their best to genocide the "primitive" natives. It's even noted that the other starfaring races wouldn't have bothered invading at all, if humans hadn't spearheaded the project.
  • Speak of the Devil: Supplement Book of Ebon Bindings. Calling out a being's Name of Power (I Know Your True Name) draws its attention. Doing so with a demon's Name of Power can allow it to leave its place in the Planes Beyond and enter the world of Tékumel.
  • The Stars Are Going Out: Actually, the stars went out thousands of years ago. There were stars, but now only the local sun and the planets, because the system fell into a pocket universe.
  • When Dimensions Collide: The Pocket Dimension of the setting collided with another universe, with otherdimensional beings, resulting in some humans gaining Psychic Powers, and religions based on limited human understanding of the more powerful creatures.

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