“We now have one roll to hit, one to get past the shield, one for damage (minus armour) and if one rolls 0 on a 10-sided die on this last roll, then a critical hit for more damage.”Years passed. It was taking too long. I began constructing my own set of Tékumel rules from the fragmentary description in the Professor’s letters, like reconstructing an unknown animal from just a few bones.
Finally “the new EPT” appeared. That was Swords & Glory. My group switched for a while, but it was the S&G Sourcebook that was getting dog-eared from use. The other book, the rules, appealed less. “HBS Factors” and “Healing G9s” gave the game a tabletop miniatures flavour rather too far from the freewheeling shared stories we were looking for.
And so I returned to my own rules and began to refine them into the game I had hoped Swords & Glory would be. Those rules were to become Tirikélu.
This was the early 1990s, so it seems a little early to talk of an Old School Revival (not a term I like anyway) but the aim was there. Simplify the system so that the rules didn’t keep tripping up the play. Recapture the evocative magic of those early adventures by cross-pollinating EPT spells with ideas from The Book of Ebon Bindings. Make combat quick to use but more than just the endless dice-rolling of, say, RuneQuest.
I had two eureka moments. First, in a treatise by a duellist from the 17th century (quite possibly Sir William Hope) I came across the concept of “safe fighting”. His contention was that a moderately skilled fighter could, by concentrating on defence, hold off a more skilled opponent who was dividing his attention between attack and defence. In Tirikélu that became the principle of full- and half-actions. It seemed almost too simple on paper, but in practice we found it allowed for rich tactical choices.
Also I wanted to avoid hit location and lots of book-keeping, but not simply to revert to the amorphous pudding of hit points of D&D. So taking damage above a certain percentage of your hits can reduce your skill, and may require a check to stay conscious, but you don’t need to keep a tally of how much damage each wound caused. It’s all handled at the point the wound is taken.
Nowadays there are quite a few role-playing games where you make a detailed decision about what you’re trying to do, then wade through pages of rules to find your chance of doing it. (GURPS, I’m looking at you.) Tirikélu works best if you keep it abstract till after you roll the dice. “He’s going for a full attack.” “I’m going for a full parry.” Once you resolve that, you’re free to put any narrative interpretation you like on the result. It flows faster that way and, with imaginative players, fights feel agreeably cinematic.
Well, here it is – as complete a version of Tirikélu as you’re ever likely to see. I know, I know; it seems like there’s a new Tékumel RPG every couple of years. Who needs yet another? But many people tell me that Tirikélu is their preferred choice, and you know what? It’s mine too. And it is dedicated, as so much of my work is, to the genius, generosity and humanity of Professor M.A.R. Barker. And on top of that, it’s absolutely free and comes with a whole bunch of scenarios, campaigns and source material.
Get Tirikélu as a free PDF HERE.
And for even more scenarios, try Michael Cule's introductory adventure "Welcome to Jakalla", Dermot Bolton's espionage tale "Crystal Clear", Bob Dushay's military mission for pre-gen characters "Behind Enemy Lines", and David Bailey's high-stakes scenario "The Society of the Resurgent Octagon".