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The Dungeon Master's Journal of the Unquiet Lands

M.A.R. Barker, creator of Tekumel, dead at age 82

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Press Release:

Professor Muhammad Abd-al-Rahman Barker created the world of Tekumel, also known as The Empire of the Petal Throne. I was saddened to find out that he died at his home on Friday.

Tekumel remains one of the most unique settings for rpgs yet devised. First published in 1974, it also is one of the earliest. Its Meso-American, Indian, and Middle Eastern influences stand in contrast to the overwhelming majority of fantasy rpgs based on western European cultures. The Empire of the Petal Throne rpg was published in five editions by Barker himself, TSR, Gamescience, Theater of the Mind, and lastly Guardians of Order, and was novelized in five books.

I was introduced to Tekumel from old Dragon Magazine articles in the late '70s, and then by reading The Man of Gold, the first Tekumel novel, shortly after it came out in 1984. Its mixture of lost technology and magic resembled Dave Arneson's Blackmoor setting, but of course with its own very distinct atmosphere. This may not be coincidental: Dave Arneson played in M.A.R. Barker's early games.

Tekumel gave me the first examples and methods for running adventures that significantly diverged from the "generic" fantasy setting. While I only came into possession of the actual rules a few years ago when I obtained TOME's Gardasiyal boxed set, published in the early '90s, I'll always consider the setting to be a major formative influence on my personal role-playing experience. I looked through the rules once again over the weekend. Once more, they gave me the impression that Professor Barker was impatient at best with game mechanics, but very attentive when it came to the details of the world, which are truly impressive even for the relatively thin booklets.

It was my understanding, though I haven't had the opportunity to confirm it today, that Professor Barker was still running Tekumel games well into his later years.

(This is a repost of my original forum entry.)

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