Wanna see how Tekumel was done “back in the day”?

The incredibly talented Chirine ba Kal (who played in MAR Barker’s original Tekumel games and has forgotten more about gaming than many gamers ever learned) has posted the following series of videos to his YouTube channel.

The whole thing will take about two hours to go through, but ye Gods is it worth the time. Not only to ogle the incredible scenery (the surface temples look amazing, and there are wooden blocks for the walls of the underworld, but damn it just makes it even better) and miniatures he has (the large temples can be found here for your buying pleasure, by the way), but the way he not only narrates the action but throws in tidbits about how games were done back in the early 1970’s is just priceless.

Behold this gem, from the first video, starting at around 8:37:

This is the style of playing that we used to do back in Ye Olden Days here in the Twin Cities, where there was a very large element of role playing to all of our miniatures games, and there was a very large element of miniatures in all of our role playing games. There wasn’t a clear division to it. We played everything; nobody was a particular specialist, and there certainly… I mean one week Dave Arneson would be playing Blackmoor as a referee, and the next week he would be Captain LeGreneul of the French navy trying to fight off Horatio Nelson the one-armed [in a] “Don’t Give up the Ship!” action. I mean, we played everything. We’d do everything and anything and we had a great time doing it. A big part of what we did was the model-building aspect of it, where whoever was hosting “the game” would spend hours concocting something for people to look at.

These videos are sprinkled with those sort of things, and he has a write-up on his blog as well.

We in the OSR often say we want to emulate what happened in the Golden Age of gaming. Chirine lived it (I came in at the very tail-end in 1977, but never had any experience like this). Behold his works, ye OSR, and despair. I am so inspired watching these videos, I want to start doing minis with my roleplaying again.

These really give new perspective of the role of hirelings in the earliest games. Note also that he gives hints about what would be Bad Things To Do throughout. And doesn’t worry about players having meta-knowledge about what’s happening out of their view. And much, much more. Lighting, music, the whole garage-sale aesthetic for some of the terrain… terrific.

A very different style, but one that I really want to try to incorporate more of in my own games. This sure beats the heck out of playing online.

Written by 

Wargamer and RPG'er since the 1970's, author of Adventures Dark and Deep, Castle of the Mad Archmage, and other things, and proprietor of the Greyhawk Grognard blog.

7 thoughts on “Wanna see how Tekumel was done “back in the day”?

  1. Slightly off topic, it occurs to me that it's high time for someone to bring some competition into the minifig business by posting a few 3D printer designs.

    for serious miniatures gamers, whether you prefer metal or plastic, the cost of a 3D printer is approaching the cost of new figs for a medium sized battle scenario.

    haven't watched the video yet but the stills you posted are quite impressive.

  2. Wow. May I say just how much I'm feeling honored by your post?

    I don't think I do anything special; I do what we did back in those simpler and possibly more innocent times – try to set things up so my friends can drop by and have some fun. I do admit that I love to build things, and then see the looks on my players' faces when they come down the stairs and turn the corner into the game room

    Maybe it's a 'social' style of game play – we don't worry about the small stuff, and rather enjoy the company and laugh a lot…

    Thank you – it's very kind of you!

    – chirine

  3. @ Joe:

    Great stuff. Spent a couple hours watching these videos. The look and feel is very much like a game of Mordheim (using the Lustria: Cities of Gold setting) with added complexity…much like 1st edition WH40K. The wargaming at the heart of role-playing is very evident.

  4. @tom
    There is more competition in the minifig business than there has ever been. Rather than illegally copying other folks works, produce your own or support those like Otherworld, etc. that have a passion for the hobby. Also, if you just want cheap, relatively decent minis check out the Reaper Bones line. If you want more detail in your figs, then you'll need to go resin or metal, which is just more expensive.

  5. Wow.

    But I'd never have the time or money for that, let alone space to keep all that stuff, so "theater of the mind" it must be.

  6. @ Matt: May I offer a comment?

    Your 'Theater of the Mind' is right on – we did this exact same thing some forty years ago when we first started playing! None of what you see in my game room existed back then; my collection is literally a record of my life in gaming. We're still playing with figures and stuff I made or painted thirty years ago for Prof. Barker.

    What you are doing is the best possible thing – actually getting out there and playing the game!

    – chirine

  7. Excuse me if I was unclear. I was not in any way suggesting making illegal copies.

    Many people choose to legally share CAD files they have designed for various other objects, but I haven't seen any for minifigs yet. Not that I've looked very hard.

    Given access to a 3D printer (which is a big if, but they are rapidly becoming affordable and more common) and a design file of your own making or that someone gave/sold to you, the price of a miniature drops from a dollar or more per figure (plus shipping) to a fraction of a cent.

    there are scanners that allow you to duplicate existing objects, but at the moment they have serious limitations on the complexity of objects they can scan, and are prohibitively expensive.

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