Relations between Tekumel - TSR, Prof. Barker - Gary Gygax
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Post Posted: Mon May 14, 2007 6:29 pm 
 

Perhaps this has been discussed before; if so, please point me to the thread.   :D

If not:  does anyone know anything of the history/inside scoop on relations between Barker and Gygax, and how Tekumel became a TSR product.  It seems from some of the forwards and acknowledgments that Tekumel personnel were grateful to Gygax for help and support, though not so obviously grateful to Dave Arneson.  The latter is interesting because Prof. Barker was located in the Mini Apple (he taught at the U. of M., didn't he?).  

I'm really interested in learning more about this history.  How did Barker and Gygax connect, and which came first, the world of Tekumel, or Chainmail and D&D?

Ayone here ever met Barker, or communicated with him?


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Post Posted: Mon May 14, 2007 6:42 pm 
 

I recommend that you ping Gary at the Troll Lord Games forums or ping him at Dragonsfoot, since he frequents both sites and is rather quick to answer. :)



  

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Post Posted: Mon May 14, 2007 8:19 pm 
 

From what I gather, Barker's world of Tekumel was a childhood invention. He created the world, and added more and more detail to it as he grew older. When he went to university and studied liguistics (or a field closely related), he created a language for his world as an exercise for his studies.

When D&D came out, he read through the books and decided to 'convert' them for use in his own world (up until that point, Tekumel wasn't a game as such - merely the product of an enormous imagination). He duly did so, and sent the result to Gygax to see if it was worthy of publication. Gygax loved it, and there was some back-and-forth between the two as Gygax advised on fine-tuning the game before it was released.

I've always though the mechanics of the Petal Throne game to be secondary to the world itself, and thats probably due to the game world to be the main creation, with the mechanics tacked on afterwards.

I might be completely wrong on all this of course. I've always been a big Tekumel fan - one of the jewels in my meagre collection is a letter from Barker to Dave Sutherland, which talks about commissioning Dave to do various bits of Tekumel artwork.

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Post Posted: Mon May 14, 2007 10:37 pm 
 

Thanks, Mike.  I appreciate the insights.

Barker must have been a fascinating individual.  I really enjoy reading the Tekumel stuff.  It's so incredibly thorough.


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Post Posted: Tue May 15, 2007 6:19 pm 
 

I believe Barker is still around and gaming Tekumel with a group.  I corresponded with him for a bit back in the late 90's over e-mail and he seemed like a really nice guy.  If I remember correctly, he taught South Asian languages at U. of Minn. with a specialty in Urdu.  You can probably contact him directly through Brett Slocum (a member here but rarely posts) at tekumel.com or through Carl Brodt at Tita's House of Games, or even perhaps through the U. of Minn. where he's now emeritus.

  

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Post Posted: Tue May 15, 2007 6:28 pm 
 

I'm still on the Yahoo group if you wanted to write up something about this and I can post it there...see what response I get.

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Post Posted: Tue May 15, 2007 8:24 pm 
 

There's a gigantic EPT section in issue 71 of Space Gamer. I recall that the interview with Barker touched on D&D quite a bit.

http://index.rpg.net/display-entry.phtml?mainid=6129

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Post Posted: Tue May 15, 2007 10:51 pm 
 

VermilionFire wrote:I believe Barker is still around and gaming Tekumel with a group.


He still has connections in the Ann Arbor gaming community, too.  U-Con had a Tekumel track last year. Professor Barker did a Q&A via speakerphone from Minnesota.

I missed that session, but if they do it again this November, maybe I'll go.

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Post Posted: Sat May 19, 2007 9:26 am 
 

Well, doing some stuff for my site I came across an interview of Mr. Barker in Dungeoneer Journal 23 (5.5 pages worth)..pretty interesting just skimming it.

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Post Posted: Sat May 19, 2007 10:50 am 
 

Shane,
Could I coax you into sending me a photocopy of the article?


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Post Posted: Sat May 19, 2007 10:56 am 
 

bombadil wrote:Shane,
Could I coax you into sending me a photocopy of the article?


Hmmmm... :twisted:

Yeah shouldn't be a problem...give me a bit to scan the pages..PM addy you'd want this sent to.

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Post Posted: Sat May 19, 2007 6:26 pm 
 

Straight from Gary, to you guys:

To be concise:

Phil Barker contacted me as he was concerned that his use of some of the emchanics from the D&D game might infringe on TSR's rights. I looked at the game ms. played it with Dave Sutherland as the GM, and told Prof. Barket that TSR would be happy to publish EPT as a premier RPG. All the bells and whistles were to make the game as close to that Phil presented to his players. We liked the game a lot, and a carload of TSR people, myself included, drove up to the Twin Cities to see the Professor at his house, play an EPT adventure with him as the GM. All oif that is why it came out as it did. I doubt that we lost money, likely made a minor profit in fact, but sales tapered off so we could not afford to do a repring when the stock ran out.

It was a feather in TSR's cap to produce such an RPG.

  


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Post Posted: Sat May 19, 2007 8:34 pm 
 

Wonderful!  Thanks!  :D


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Post Posted: Sat May 19, 2007 9:17 pm 
 

bombadil wrote:Wonderful!  Thanks!  :D


Quite welcome.

I also find it interesting that Gary notes but one print run of Empire of the Petal Throne.

  

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Post Posted: Sun May 20, 2007 3:52 am 
 

DungeonDelver wrote:
Quite welcome.

I also find it interesting that Gary notes but one print run of Empire of the Petal Throne.


1st print: released around July 76
2nd print: released around July 77
Legions of the Petal Throne: released around August 77
3rd print: released around sometime in 78 (don't have this figured out)

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Post Posted: Tue May 22, 2007 4:24 pm 
 

Is EPT any fun to play?

I owned it once upon a time, but I didn't like the setting and never played.  

This is probably closed-minded on my part, but I prefer a west European, Tolkeinesque "culture" for RPGs.


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Post Posted: Tue May 22, 2007 5:09 pm 
 

Plaag wrote:
Hmmmm... :twisted:

Yeah shouldn't be a problem...give me a bit to scan the pages..PM addy you'd want this sent to.

ShaneG.


Great article.  Thanks a million, Shane.  It was just what I was looking for.

Quite an interesting history between Barker and Gygax, and between Barker and TSR, which I take it developed into two separate relationships over time.  Sounds like the latter didn't work out so well in the end.   :(


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Post Posted: Tue May 22, 2007 6:00 pm 
 

Keith the Thief wrote:Is EPT any fun to play?

I owned it once upon a time, but I didn't like the setting and never played.  

This is probably closed-minded on my part, but I prefer a west European, Tolkeinesque "culture" for RPGs.


I bought it solely for that purpose (playing) and it...um, it's not very easy to get in to.  If western fantasy is your thing, odds are you might find yourself disappointed by EPT...

  

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Post Posted: Tue May 22, 2007 7:22 pm 
 

One of the problems any DM has in jetisoning Tolkien is that he will have to completely retrain his players in the new culture and setting.

Chances are they will look at you puzzled and then look around for pipeweed and Sam Gamgee.

Even in my current campaign setting...which is totally un-Tolkien and most certainly not Forgotten Realms or Eberron....I have one guy who insists on giving his players faux "elven" names and another who insists that "Bargalanos" is a perfectly legitimate Latin or Greek name.

(My current campaign has more in common with Dune or the Young Kingdoms, mixed with Creatures of Darkness and Light and Treasure Planet than with Tolkien.)

The training period for a new setting can be long....even if the new setting means merely moving back to the Dark Ages or a 17th century pirate setting.  Most players are familiar with Tolkien and most comfortable in a sort of Late Middle Ages That Never Was.  Even a trip to China can throw them off.  Players keep trying to purchase horned helmets for their vikings to wear in the court of Queen Elizabeth while fighting against the minions of Julius Caesar and Marie Antoinette.

Ah well, we try.

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Post Posted: Wed May 30, 2007 10:52 pm 
 

Michael Mornard claims that he is the one who introduced Phil Barker to D&D, FWIW. I have no reason to doubt it.


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