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I've often fancied doing some gaming in Professor Barker's fascinating if rather complex world, but there seem to be a confusing array of products, essays and systems out there, all rather obscure and mostly rather old.

What's an effective and hopefully not too expensive way to give it a try?

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What's your spending threshold? The most effective way is to buy a copy of the latest edition and try it out with your friends... I suspect the unofficial games and ports require prior knowledge that would entail purchasing some books in any event. –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton Nov 17 '10 at 4:05
    
@Brian: No absolute threshold, and it wouldn't be that useful for future readers either. I just wanted to emphasis that buying everything is not an option, and that competing with collectors is probably out of the question. Feel free to write an answer based on what you've said - I don't even know what the "latest edition" is. –  Dave Hallett Nov 17 '10 at 9:00
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3 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

While not disagreeing with the other answers, it is worth pointing out that other than the archaic White Box D&D rules framework, the original rules are about the most playable version of the game, and costs about $25 in reprinted form.

The Swords and Glory books are almost twice the cost (each!) and unless they have been retypeset they are pretty hard on the old eyeballs. I think the originals (which I own) were mimeographed from typewritten originals, and neither of them has an index. They come from an age when codifying every single thing was thought to be a good way to go for RPGs - think AD&D meets GURPS on steroids. My opinion of them is that they make reading your local tax code look interesting. The information is in there, but finding it is a journey you may assess as time you'll never get back. S&G was envisioned as a three volume set. Only two of the three ever saw print.

The Guardians of Order book is very nice, but very incomplete when it comes to the Bestiary. It doesn't even cover all of the intelligent races introduced in the TSR first edition. It does have a nice world map in the back cover. I found the Tristat-derived game system to be unfriendly. It took me over an hour to generate my first character. The system offers a complexity in its combat system I do not find attractive. Your mileage may vary.

Were I going into the Tekumel game again (and don't think I haven't tried to interest people in playing therein) I would be tempted to use the original EPT (available at http://www.tekumel.com/tita/ept.html ) and do a quick port into Savage Worlds. Total load: about 40 bux and a little work.

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A very good answer, thanks very much for the effort. The question of how most easily to get to grips with the background is I think very important, even though I added the system recommendation tag. There seem to be numerous adaptations, and I could even write my own at a push, but you still have to learn about the setting somehow. That's always a challenge. –  Dave Hallett Nov 22 '10 at 21:30
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For ease and speed of acquiring that sort of info, at least, to the point you can run a game and make sure it is EPT and not just another D&D game, I'd still vote for the original rulebook. If the human cultures are your main focus of interest, the GOO Tristat book probably presents the material in the format that best combines richness of material with ease of reading (much more depth than in the original game here). FYI: I own all the books I've referenced. I've run games only from the original materials. –  Roxysteve Nov 22 '10 at 21:50
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My system recommendation? I don't really feel any of the in-print alternatives are ideal. The original uses White Box D&D (modified) which has bizarre weapon limitations by level. The S&G books are not a complete game system and therefore unplayable as one, and the GOO book uses Tristat (modified), first made manifest in BESM. I have reservations about all of them, and think the only way I'd get players would be to port it to a more well-known system. There's an extant D20 port at tekumel.com/gaming_rulesDD3.html and another system published by TOME (prior to GOO) that I never saw. –  Roxysteve Nov 22 '10 at 22:01
    
Thanks for the additional info, and I'm sorry it took me 5 days to notice! Answer accepted, as with all this extra detail, I think it's a pretty authoritative response. I agree about the attracting players issue. I believe there's a BRP adaptation out there that might also do. One last query: can you confirm the ID of the "Sourcebook" in the quote in Alticamelus's answer? You seem well placed to know. Thanks! –  Dave Hallett Nov 27 '10 at 14:05
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The Tekumel FAQ says:

I have $50 to spend. Which books should I buy?

Buy the Tekumel: Empire of the Petal Throne for $40 and save the other $10 for the Sourcebook.

I think the source book is volume one of Swords and Glory.

Nick Brooke has a nice free Tekumel page, with campaign histories.

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Thanks, nice links. It's good to see that the Yahoo Group version of the FAQ is more up to date than the one at tekumel.com, which says it was last updated in 2006. Even if nothing much has changed, it's useful to know that. –  Dave Hallett Nov 17 '10 at 13:51
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To partly answer my own question, Dave Morris has written a fairly light system (by Tekumel standards: it's not exactly Wushu) called Tirikelu which is available for free, and looks quite playable. It doesn't come with any background about the world, however - it assumes you know the original game and just want a different system for playing in it.

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I'm amused that someone thinks this is not useful to me - did I miss a meeting? Or do you just have an inbuilt objection to someone answering their own question? A comment would be helpful! –  Dave Hallett Nov 19 '10 at 21:16
    
+1, working through what is clearly a very worthwhile, nearly open content game. Favorite sentence so far "Amid the Tsolyáni noblity, the romantic ideal of a warrior fits someone with high Cleverness and low Reasoning." –  Alticamelus Feb 22 '11 at 20:51
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