RPG Review: Tekumel - Empire of the Petal Throne

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Tekumel: Empire of the Petal Throne by Guardians of Order (GOO) 2005, 240pp.

TLDR: 5 stars – it's got that wow factor, and no appreciable faults.

This book has been sitting on my shelf for ages. I've always loved the ideas behind this setting – it's alien feel, vaguely science-fantasy, and the cultural inspirations from India, Egypt, and Central America really appeal to me.

Core Mechanic

I didn't know much about GOO's Tri-Stat system before reading this, and I suspect I'm still missing something since Tekumel has six stats, not three. But it seems a simple enough D10 roll under system with your stats as target numbers that can be modified up or down. The difference between your roll and the target is recorded as your margin of success.

Contents

1. Introduction to Tekumel (3 pages)
This chapter introduces us to the setting and its publication history. This also has one of the best What is a Roleplaying Game sections I've seen anywhere. This chapter has a nice section outlining what makes Tekumel unique as a setting, and these things are:

  • a. Metal is scarce; most weapons and armour are made from Chlen hide.
  • b. There are no riding animals.
  • c. The wilderness is very hostile, so don't leave the trail.
  • d. The world is hot and humid, sometimes beyond endurance limits.
  • e. The culture of the place obviously differs from the usual.
  • f. Clans are very important in society and are your first loyalty.
  • g. Architecture in cites as being unique, though with the exception of the 3-tiered sakbe roads, this doesn't really come across anywhere else in this book, and the architecture is not particularly well described or illustrated – a missed opportunity.
  • h. Dress is different. Dress isn't often a feature that gets played up in games, but I suppose this is an invitation to do so, which by itself would give Tekumel a different feel.
  • i. Status is important, and something you wear and give outward clues about. How you relate to NPCs depends on relative status. The game recommends that all characters start with the same status.
  • j. Blood money: wrongful injuries and deaths will cost you.
  • k. Noble Action: In our way of thinking, noble and ignoble acts follow from morality, but in Tekumel, nobility is not tied to morality. You may not approve of someone's acts, but if they have acted nobly (ie. according to their professed core beliefs) then you still respect them. This is a small distinction, but an interesting one.

2. Character Creation (44 pages)
The second chapter has you jumping right into character creation with the following subsections: Concept, Clan, Religion, Stats, Attributes, Defects, Career, Skills, Resources, Rank, and Derived Values.

3. Non-Human Races (14 pages)
Chapter 3 describes the six playable non-human races (really, these are species, not races) on the planet, and how to make characters from them.

  • a. Ahoggya are four-legged and armed brutes with a shell on top, looking kind of like a cross between a turtle and a mushroom.
  • b. Hlaka are imp-like flying creatures.
  • c. Pachi Lei are four-legged and armed humanoids with heads that look like somebody crossed a bird with an artichoke. They bear both male and female sexual organs and wear their eggs on the outside.
  • d. Pe Choi – if you think 'mantis-man' you're nearly there.
  • e. Shen – think 'lizard man'.
  • f. Tinaliya are short, squat, beings with beaks and bee-hive heads with four legs and 3 genders. The live underground and are very literal.

So yep, these are not your typical fantasy races. They're no stranger than many D&D creatures, but where the playable races in d&D are fairly vanilla, the races here are quite different and most would really let you excercise your role-playing muscles.

4. Equipment and Economics (24 pages)
Money, stuff, and how you convert one into the other. The most interesting thing here is that your clan may cover some of your expenses and even loan you weapons and armour for your ventures. It all depends on your status.
Also interesting are the descriptions of talismans, charms, and magic (ancient technology) items. There aren't a lot, but they are meant to be rare and are very flavourful. You get little things like this:

Fake Eyes: Few people want to find out the hard way whether an Eye pointed at them is real or not, so a Fake Eye can be as effective for Intimidation as a real one. This category represents top quality fakes and near-perfect replicas of the real thing. They look real until the button is pushed. A Fake Eye will provide +4 to intimidation checks.

5. Game Mechanics (19 pages)
This covers the core mechanics of the game and gives a number of optional advanced combat rules for more tactical play, which look like fun. At the end of the section are four subsections that I really liked, and that could be adapted to any game or world:

  • a. Teamwork and Planning are two different ways to increase your chances of success.
  • b. Respect is a measure of your respect in the community, and I really like how this enables PC interaction with the setting.
  • c. Favours is similar to Respect, another neat little mechanic for interacting with the setting.
  • d. Duels, and the settling thereof.

6. Magic (30 pages)
Magic rules, sources of spells, and most of all spell descriptions.

7. The World of Tekumel (16 pages)
This section describes the setting in overview, including history, current events, a rough guide to the Tsolyanu empire and it's larger neighbours, and a bit more on the workings of magic.

8. The Bestiary (23 pages)
What you would expect, and the creatures are refreshingly different. This is not an exhaustive bestiary, but it'll get you through a campaign or two. At the end of this sections are the two Inimical Races, races native to the planet so alien that interaction with them is not really reasonable on most levels.

9. Life in Tsolyanu (36 pages)
We're back to the setting in this section, now focused on the Empire of the Petal Throne itself and it's society and culture. This is really the meat of the game. Here we have:

  • a. Religion, with gods divided between the houses of order and chaos, and largely mirroring each other with 5 main gods of each house in the realms of Rule, War, Learning, Sex, and Death. Each of the main gods has a single cohort with a narrower focus in the realm of the main god.
  • b. Cultural values, including Noble Action, Honour, Gender, Family and Kinship, clothing, social status, and law.
  • c. Lifestyle by Clan Social Status describes what a typical life is like in a low, medium, or high status clan. Assassin clans are covered separately.
  • d. Priesthood describes how a character might become a member of and advance in the priesthood.
  • e. Military describes the same for the military, and this seems like a common path that character might take to enter the game world. What follows is a list of the many Legions of the empire that one might be a member of. Some are clan or race-specific, other more broad. And they have wonderful names:
    Legion of the Sweet Singers of Nakome
    Legion of Potent Destiny
    Legion of the Scales of Brown
    Legion of the Deep Purple Dark
    Legion of the Maces Raised High
    Phalanx of Lord Durritlamish of the Rotted Face
    Battalions of the Seal of the Worm
    Cohorts of Chegarra, the Hero King
    Regiment of the Knower of Spells
    Battalions of Vrishtata the Mole
    Horde of Hrk-ss, the Eater of Eggs

  • f. Describes Paths a character may take to wealth and power in the imperial government.

10. Game Mastering (7 pages)
More or less the usual GM advice, and good advice on how to run a non-vanilla setting for those who are intimidated by such.

Appendix
A page on languages, some reading resources, NPC stats for common NPCs, and the index.

Impressions

I really enjoyed this book. I'm a gamer who likes to to use gaming to explore exotic locales, meet interesting characters and cultures, and solve interesting problems, and this book really delivers. The rules are medium crunch and not overly complicated. The whole book is geared to giving the GM tools to provide experiences (not stories) to gamers, and that's really what I want in a game book.

Many people say that the don't know what to do with Tekumel, or find it too hard to get into. It's not an attitude I can really relate to. The cultures are and species in the book are all interesting, but not completely alien. To play the game well, you'd have to be able to somewhat think like a local character, make decisions like a local character, play the role of a local character. That requires a little more investment, but it's not all that hard to do.

If you like Trad games, and trad games with an anthropological bent (Jorune, RuneQuest, Harnmaster, Talislanta, Mechanical Dream) then you'll love this one, too. The setting is well thought out, convincing in execution, and refreshingly original. The rules are medium crunch and get out of your way, letting you concentrate on the good stuff, like how you'll escort the Pachi Lei priests through the humid uplands without letting a single sacred egg-sack get pierced by a flying worm.

I'm giving this one 5 our of 5 – serious wow factor for me.

Comments

  • 1
    This out of print game has been on my "must find" list for a while (the other Tekumel books are very OSR, which typically isn't my thing, and Bethorm didn't suit me from a preview and reviews - clunky and little setting information, and I'm here for the setting).

    I've just started reading. The introduction gets me excited. The type is small and reminds me I need glasses.
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    I had a brief-but-intense fling with Tékumel around the time this game came out. I even ran a short game, The Annex for the Elucidation of Eternal Splendours that involved a bunch of minor civil servants suddenly coming into possession of a Pot Sherd of Mass Destruction.

    The setting is very much a sandbox, so there's a lot of scope for different types of games. The OSR-style default seems to be going into the Tsuru'úm (dungeon), killing monsters and taking treasure (think the buried streets under Seattle, but many, many layers). But there's a lot more in the setting that makes things fun.

    In terms of feel, the setting draws on India and pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. The scenes from Kim of travelling the Great Trunk Road would fit right into Tékumel.

    A couple of things I think are interesting in the setting:

    • the different view of "success" embodied by the Stability / Change dichotomy (Stability isabout family, society, and inherited position; Change is about individual success. While the Empire looks static, there's a lot of individual success and social mobility)
    • contrasts between family and professional status. A high-clan person may be in a lowly position in their "professional" life, meaning all their relationships change depending on whether the meeting is official or not. Plenty of scope for juicy confict there!
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    Tekumel is right up your alley, @Apocryphal! Not surprised you gave it a high five. :D

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    This review of the GoG Tékumel book turned up on rpgnet today. It's a bit wall-of-text from a fan, but interesting nevertheless.

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    @dr_mitch Let's hear back after you've finished to see if you still like it.
    @clash_bowley yes. Note this review is from 2018 - that year I was inspired by this book, Outremer, Denizens of the North (for Fate of the Norns), and Monster Island - all with very interesting settings.
    @NeilNjae GOG? The link points to a review of the 1975 TSR version, which I guess is the earliest one.

    Question for everyone - what is today's Tekumel? What new(ish) RPG book can I buy today that will give me the same sense of wonder? What I mostly see coming online are (a) RPG treatments of already-released-in-other-media settings, or (b) Heartthrobs (this-is-my-version-of-well-trod-ground-genre-tropes), (c) very niche but mundane story game settings (female Russian fighter pilots, Lesbian snakes, etc), or (d) historical settings. Nothing wrong with these, but I feel there's a dearth of deeply imaginative original settings. Admittedly, I'm not following new games on kickstarter (too much chaff to sort through).

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    @Apocryphal said:
    @NeilNjae GOG? The link points to a review of the 1975 TSR version, which I guess is the earliest one.

    My mistake! It read like a review of the GoO book you reviewed.

    Question for everyone - what is today's Tekumel? What new(ish) RPG book can I buy today that will give me the same sense of wonder? What I mostly see coming online are (a) RPG treatments of already-released-in-other-media settings, or (b) Heartthrobs (this-is-my-version-of-well-trod-ground-genre-tropes), (c) very niche but mundane story game settings (female Russian fighter pilots, Lesbian snakes, etc), or (d) historical settings. Nothing wrong with these, but I feel there's a dearth of deeply imaginative original settings. Admittedly, I'm not following new games on kickstarter (too much chaff to sort through).

    A lot of the innovation in games now seems to be around small, focussed games that deliver a particular experience. Not necessarily mundane, but definitely in the story game category. That's all the innovation around itch.io, and I can't keep up with it. I don't think that the "large complex setting" is fashionable at the moment.

    Could it be because of a focus on play? Middle Earth, Glorantha, and Tékumel all started as literary exercises and then moved into games when RPGs arrived. If you've got a vibrant setting, you'll want to release it in a non-game form first. If you're focussed on play, who wants to read a mighty setting tome before you start?

  • 1
    Big settings probably won’t be the vogue again, but there’s a market for them in the D&D and Trad communities, and for big books as well. Look at Zweihaender and the imminent Lyonesse. Not all interesting RPG settings got their start as literature - Mechanical Dream and Dark Sun didn’t, nor Jorune, nor Harn, nor The Forgotten Realms. The Old World of WFRP fame maybe as a miniatures setting before it was an RPG?

    Also, creative made-up settings don’t need to be large. Dictionary of Mu is an example. I’m not lamenting the absence or large settings, so much as I am the absence of well thought out original settings. Though Tekumel
    Is a large setting, the amount presented in the GOO book is not that much, but it’s enough to convey the grandeur and scope.

    No, what I’m seeing are mainly copied or derived or very drilled down settings, and wondering where the dreamers are.
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    Hellifino!

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    Okay, newish (last 10 years or so) sense of wonder original RPG settings I've read...ones that are original, not based on other properties, not historical, not new versions of old things, not focused storygames...a random selection.

    (1) Mindjammer. Based on Fate (or optionally Traveller). Transhuman space opera, with a number of resemblances to the Culture (which the designer hadn't read at the time) but certainly an original setting, and a fair slice of science fiction sense of wonder and world building. Yes, I've written bits and pieces of supplements, but that's because I liked Mindjammer first.

    (2) Black Void. This one's interesting - humanity taken into an alien universe, and at the bottom of the heap. It's fantasy rather than SF with bronze age technology and magic coming from the void, with portals and travels from world to world through the aether of the void. I have to say, unfortunately, I don't think it's entirely successful - it's overwritten and it takes time to get to what things are about or the interesting stuff. It doesn't fulful its promise. But it's very new (2019 release, I think).

    (3) Eclipse Phase. You know this one, I believe. Well worth reading for the world-building alone.

    (4) Yoon Suin. It's OSR and much of the world building is via random tables. So it's not altogether my thing, and I suspect not altogether yours. But there is some original world building in that sphere, and this is one of the most original things, with Slug Men sorcerers at the top of the social pile, and Crab Man down the bottom, with a definite Tibet feel to it.

    (5) Hellas. Ancient Greek-inspired space opera, with alien races somewhat based on myth, but there's absolutely shed-loads of originality in that. For space fantasy, it's absolutely one of the best. Typing that makes me want to run it.

    (6) Symbaroum. This is a great fantasy setting. The dark mysterious forest, full of treasures. Elves who are alien child-stealing fae. A civilised land in exile from their home, taking over from the native tribes, exploiting the land while not knowing what they're doing. More refugees from the homeland, cultural clashes, treasure hunters. The setting really has it for fairy tale vibes and fantasy politics.

    Now I'll be the first one to admit not all of the above are successful (I think 2 fails, and 4 doesn't fully work for me). Some are probably about 10 years old (Mindjamme, Eclipse Phase, Hellas) so hardly new.

    Thinking about older settings which gave me the same feelings, I've got... Glorantha, Talislanta, Planescape, Dark Sun (variant D&D settings still count), Fading Suns, Tekumel, Transhuman Space. I know of Tribe 8 and Mechanical Dream but never tracked them down.

  • 0

    What do you get if you cross an elephant with a rhinocerous? ;)

    @clash_bowley said:
    Hellifino!

  • 1

    @dr_mitch said:
    What do you get if you cross an elephant with a rhinocerous? ;)

    @clash_bowley said:
    Hellifino!

    Good one! :D

  • 0
    In my above list I forgot another recent game... Spire. Dark elf revolutionaries, trying to overthrow the oppressive rule of the High Elves in their tower city, Spire. It's a brutal lovely twisted setting, the best novel fantasy setting I've read in ages, with magic which is half religion and half technological - at times it's almost fantasy cyberpunk.

    I have played and enjoyed a game, and the book is a really enjoyable read. Also, there are a few supplements. Another successful recent game building a novel world. To an extent an alien world, and not D&D despite the use of elves and gnolls (as thuggish mercenaries).
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    @dr_mitch said:
    Okay, newish (last 10 years or so) sense of wonder original RPG settings I've read...ones that are original, not based on other properties, not historical, not new versions of old things, not focused storygames...a random selection.

    Lots of settings out there I've not had a chance to game in! Thanks for the list. It seems I'm more focussed on the story-games end of things.

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    @NeilNjae if you would like a customised suggestion for you personally, I'll recommend Spire. PbtA-derived mechanics (with a tiny dash of Blades in the Dark) and really flavourful playbooks/character classes.
  • 1
    Back on topic, I've now finished the Tekumel book.

    The flavour and structure of the world is interesting. There's lots of lovely things such as the three-tiered roads. The system is fine. It reads much better than the original TriStat system which overwhelmed me with character generation - here it's both customised for the setting and much more structured. And each of the three stats is split into two.

    There's just enough there for me to run a game. I'd have loved lots more on types of campaign and adventure seeds for each, but it seems very game able. Sure, there are rigid social classes and a system of honour that's different to the modern West, but I've played and run plenty in such settings as Babylon in c. 1800 BC, Saxon England, and Legend of the Five Rings; it's interesting and different to each of those, but not implicitly harder to understand.

    One to run at some point this year.
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    @dr_mitch said:
    @NeilNjae if you would like a customised suggestion for you personally, I'll recommend Spire. PbtA-derived mechanics (with a tiny dash of Blades in the Dark) and really flavourful playbooks/character classes.

    Thanks! I will check it out.

  • 1

    This is a great list of cool settings, though I think not quite what I had in mind (with some exceptions). Take the various Transhuman Space RPGs - Eclipse Phase (which I think is very good), Mindjammer, Transhuman Space, Freemarket, and (I think by now) more. These are creative, but are they original? I mean, surely, only one of them can be (was Transhuman Space the first?) but even then are largely based on published SF. And are they not just really Traveller with transhuman elements - in other words, they're games about exploring, trading, or engaging with a 'system' of scattered settlements on various planets/stations/asteroids or what have you. This is a well-trod genre trope, isn't it? The very fact that Mindjammer resembles The Culture even though the author hadn't read those books surely suggests that genre tropes are strongly at work. Sure, each has it's own twist on things, but these fall into the 'love letter to a genre' category in my mind. Eclipse Phase is Traveller+Transhumans+Cthulhu (and there was another similar game more overtly about Cthulhu that did the same, if I recall), Mindjammer is what... Traveller+Transhumans? Hellas is Traveller+Greeks. Transhuman Space is Traveller+Transhumans. Freemarket is maybe Babylon 5+Transhumans, so at least it isn't Traveller. And I think this is part of what bugs me about the market - most SF games end up being Traveller+something. SF has so much breadth that isn't really explored in RPGs. Freemarket was an attempt at social SF, so I think it's more 'original' than the others - but you never hear anyone talk about it these days.

    Symbaroum is another that I've always been skeptical about, and partly because 'does it have elves' is one of my litmus tests for whether it's original or not. Yes, it has elves, and a euro-fantasy feel. Why wouldn't it fall into the ye-olde-fantasie-with-twist category, then? Sure, it might be a great setting, it might be very creative - but can we really say it's 'original'?

    Of the settings mentioned above, I think Yoon Suin has the strongest claim to originality, with races and cultural roots I've never seen before in an RPG. It sounds pretty cool, but I've never looked at it. There is a movement in OSR for 'weird settings' that I think is admirable, though I've also seen them being criticized for being weird for weird's sake. I don't think I have a problem with that, personally. I'm more turned off by the association with the OSR label.

    You also mentioned Talislanta, which fits too and I forgot to mention it. I have a love/hate relationship with Talislanta - love the idea, but not the execution of it. With so many races (some of which are basically one-trick elves, btw) each race is given it's schtick that defines it and that's about it. So it really lacks nuance.

    Another setting I haven't read, but caught my eye a few years ago (and I just included it today in a big order of new RPG books - looking at everyone's shelves in the Mitchester Arms left me with a need to grow my collection!) is Belly of the Beast, a setting entirely inside of a large beast. I think it has a lot of potential for originality. However, it's another game I never hear anyone talking about, so I'm a bit worried about the execution of it. We'll see.

    And there's also Troika, which is a far-our SF game. I've only looked at the cover, but it looks quite promising. Can't buy a physical copy atm, but I'll keep my eye out.

    Oh, then there's Noumenon, of course - a very original setting, but also tied to a very specific and original rule-set and play style which I doubt I could pull off running.

  • 0

    @Apocryphal said:
    Take the various Transhuman Space RPGs - ... And are they not just really Traveller with transhuman elements

    I think that's true in exactly the same way that fantasy settings are D&D with other elements. After all, a core activity in Tékumel is going into underground complexes, killing monsters and getting treasure. It's just D&D with some Aztec-inspired add-ons.

    There's a central activity in RPGs that involves a group of characters travelling from place to place and doing quasi-legal jobs when they get there. I think you'll be hard-pressed to find a gameable setting that deviates wildly from that central activity.

    (Talking of original fantasty settings, I think we've forgotten Earthdawn, which is notable for having characters come out of dungeons to kill monsters and get treasure.)

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    @NeilNjae said:
    I think that's true in exactly the same way that fantasy settings are D&D with other elements. After all, a core activity in Tékumel is going into underground complexes, killing monsters and getting treasure. It's just D&D with some Aztec-inspired add-ons.

    Many are. I'm pretty sure the original OSR Empire of the Petal Throne (which I played once at a con) was exactly this - basically a dungeon-crawling game with the weird. I really disliked that about it. But the GOO Tekumel doesn't mention dungeons at all, as I remeember. That said, I would agree that it's kissing cousins with Jorune and Glorantha, as settings go. And really, if a setting is based on earthly cultures, is it 'original'? But then, when you look at the various creative races in the book, and the select earthly cultural artifacts (it's really not just aztec dungeons since it also has chinese and indian elements, carefully put together) I think it qualifies as an 'original' setting.

    There's a central activity in RPGs that involves a group of characters travelling from place to place and doing quasi-legal jobs when they get there. I think you'll be hard-pressed to find a gameable setting that deviates wildly from that central activity.

    LOL yes, fair enough.

    (Talking of original fantasty settings, I think we've forgotten Earthdawn, which is notable for having characters come out of dungeons to kill monsters and get treasure.)

    Good call. Dark Sun and Fading Suns were mentioned above, but not Earthdawn. I've never read any of these, so they all kind of run together in my mind. Could someone speak to these three? Also, I know Paul really likes Planescape, which I always saw mentally as a 'well put-together demonstration of how to make a setting by taking of subset of the D&D kitchen sink and eliminating the chaff'. But is there more to it?

  • 1

    @NeilNjae said:

    There's a central activity in RPGs that involves a group of characters travelling from place to place and doing quasi-legal jobs when they get there. I think you'll be hard-pressed to find a gameable setting that deviates wildly from that central activity.

    I hate this presupposition and its baggage.

  • 0

    Earthdawn's fun because it has in-setting justifications for all those stupid adventuring tropes. The key idea is that magic comes and goes in centuries-long cycles. When magic gets too strong, evil Horrors from evil dimensions can enter our world and proceed to eat everyone. People escaped that by building strongholds, kaers to shelter in while Horrors are about.

    The magic's just fallen to a safe level, most of the Horrors have left, and your kaer leadership has just decided to open the doors to your kaer.

    • Trope 1: you know nothing about the world and have to explore it, but here is a save haven you can return to.

    Not all kaers were so lucky, and some fell to the Horrors. The Horror's have probably left, and there are treasures in those kaers for heroes to salvage.

    • Trope 2: there are underground complexes, full of treasure and monsters.
    • Trope 3: the evil monsters in those dungeons are evil by definition, so no qualms about whether orcs are humans.

    In fact, dwarves, elves, orcs, and trolls are all playable races and accepted as equal people.

    Back to Horrors, they can affect minds and manipulate people, and even change shape and possess people. They have to, because Horrors have one failing: they cannot do anything artistic. When people enter a new community, they have to prove their humanity by doing something artistic.

    • Trope 4: evil can and does infiltrate everywhere
    • Trope 5: everyone needs a good hobby skill

    Finally, magic is tied to names, and the history of names. The more famous a person is, the more powerful they become. And groups and items have names and histories, so there aren't generic "sword +1"s.

    • Trope 6: magic items become more powerful as you learn more about them (and as you level up)
    • Trope 7: "don't split the party" is really important

    I think those are the main points in the setting.

  • 0

    Good discussion everyone. I agree with clash with not liking the baggage of the assumption a group of characters travelling from place to place and doing quasi-legal jobs when they get there being the default RPG activity.

    To answer some of the things that have come up...

    I don't see the Traveller in Mindjammer or Eclipse Phase. In Mindjammer the default activity is being Commonality agents interfering with developing societies. In Eclipse Phase the default activity is special agents working against threats to transhumanity...okay, that's an absolutely standard RPG trope. Transhuman Space lacks a default activity, which was one of the criticisms. But I take the point - with three such RPGs in my list, how novel are two of them?

    As for elves in Symbaroum, they're very unlike those in Tolkien and D&D (and unlike changelings, who can morph their form - they are the beings left in place of the kidnapped children) not playable characters. All that said, the game does have a folkloric place, so perhaps it's not what your looking for. It's a half turn towards novelty. It's only somewhat novel relative to other RPGs.

    Hellas is a mostly a combination of familiar things, though not all of it.

    So maybe that's what you're looking for...novelty. I'd say the ones I listed are original but not necessarily novel.

    As for Planescape, there's a lot more to it than the usual D&D. A city with portals everywhere, ruled by philosophical factions. The outer planes where every mythology, both invented and "real world" exists, and clashes and cooperates in peculiar ways - and they have their own rules of reality. The least of it is that gravity functions differently on various planes - the geography is fantastic, and that makes it stand out. There's also an absence of dungeon-delving, and fighting is less emphasised - a good many things a PC group comes across will easily beat them in a fight, but can perhaps be negotiated with.

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