Five Questions with Brett Slocum

One of the most consistent supporters of Tékumel, Brett Slocum has been at this a long time.  We had the chance to talk with him about his deep and abiding interest in the world of Empire of the Petal Throne:

How did you get involved in Tékumel?

In 1976, I found EPT on the shelf of The Little Tin Soldier Shoppe in Minneapolis, the only game store in town. I’d never seen anything like it, with color maps, and crazy aliens, and temples that made your hair stand on end. I paid my $30, an absurd amount at the time, and took it home. Sometime later, I was in The Shop (as we called the place) when Craig Smith and Tim Cox started their weekly campaign. They were in Professor Barker’s basement campaign. We played for nearly two years, and I was ruined for most any other fantasy game after that. We started as fresh-off-the-boat foreigners based in Penóm, and the first night one of us died on the impaling stake for talking to a citizen and mangling the speech. Later, we had a long ship voyage, with attacks by pirates, Hlüss, and the Livyáni. We found a military R&R post on a tropical island, staffed by friendly Ru’ún and Yéleth. We left with some high-tech weapons, laser pistols and such. We had a grand time.

What memories do you have of gaming in Tékumel when you were younger?

I remember dying countless times. I remember praying desperately for divine intervention. I remember Phil’s cigar and his chortle of delight when something truly awful was going to happen to us. I also remember a parody underworld that one of my buddies created. It involved a previously unknown deity named Tsiknus. We had an Eye of Raging Juice, which shot a slightly acidic orange liquid. If you got it in your eyes, they would sting real bad. It turned out that we were reading the names all backward, since Tsolyáni is read right to left. Sunkist! (Thanks for the fun, Mark!)

You started your Tékumel page in 1991, even before the web existed. What led you to put together this resource?

During the 1980s, the various fanzines helped keep the Tékumel community together, with letters and new content. In the 1990s, I was feeling the loss, so in May 1991, I started the Tékumel Digest, a moderated mailing list. It was my way of maintaining the community of Tékumel enthusiasts. It only lasted into 1993, but I put out over 50 digests. From the start, I put the archives up on Gopher, an information locating software and protocol that another Tékumel personage, Bob Alberti, co-wrote. In December of 1993 I downloaded the Mosaic browser, I experimented with HTML, and in January of 1994, I put up my Digest archives on a web page. It was among the first 200,000 pages on the Web.

You've put together different rules sets for Tékumel, using The Fantasy Trip and GURPS. Would you share some of your insights about writing those conversions?

My biggest insight from these conversions is that it truly doesn’t matter what set of rules you play with, or that you’ve read all the novels, and memorized the Sourcebook. What really matters is that you sit down and play and have fun. As Phil would say, “Make it your own.”

What sorts of gaming are you doing with Tékumel now?

Last fall, I playtested my TFT Tékumel rules at a friend’s birthday, which is becoming a yearly tradition. I’m running a short EPT adventure with my local game group every other Tuesday. I also run GURPS Tékumel adventures at conventions, including Con of the North in St. Paul, MN and the Tékumel Track at U-Con in Ann Arbor, MI. In my spare time, I'm writing more conversions for Tékumel, using both old and new systems. GURPS, Heroes and Other Worlds, and finishing my TFT rules.