Sunday, March 9, 2014

Encounters on the Sábke Roads

JSTOR Early Journal Content

The Sábke Roads are a Tékumel combination of Roman roads and the Great Wall of China.  Barker himself makes the comparison to the Great Wall.  “They are raised, fortified highways” and they...
...well maintained, studded with watch towers, resthouses, and way-stations, and they are garrisoned by special units drawn from the surrounding population.
The Sábke Roads have three tiers.  The bottommost tier “is for caravans of goods, traders, and ordinary folk.”  The second tier is for military use while the highest tier is reserved “for Imperial officials, nobles, and messengers.”

Horses and similar animals are not available on Tékumel, so the usual mode of transport on the Sábke Roads is pedestrian.  Sometimes Chlén (beasts of burden) are used to pull freight carts; however, Chlén can travel only about nine miles in a day while “a healthy porter” can travel 25 - 35 miles on a Sábke Road transporting about 80 - 100 pounds.  “Litters and palanquins,” we are told, “are extensively employed for passenger transport.”

The network of Sábke Roads covers the Tsolyáni Empire as well as nearby nations such as Livyánu, Yán Kór, Salarvyá, and Mu'ugalavyá.  Barker states, “The Sábke Roads make it difficult for an invader to force his way into the Empire without being surrounded in an easily attacked cul-de-sac.”  I suspect that a skillful invader could use the Sábke Roads to his advantage via strategic deployment of troops and sabotage.
According to the rules, there is a 1-in-3 chance of an encounter (per day, I assume).  Percentile dice are rolled to determine the 'type' of encounter and another roll is made on the reaction table.  Even so, because the roads are “well patrolled,” most encounters “are likely to be harmless.”

There is a 5% of encountering 1 - 20 non-humans.  Referees are instructed to “roll 1-8 for race.”  In the 'Hiring of Nonplayer Characters' section of the rules, there is percentage table for non-humans; a total of eight races are listed therein.  While some races appear more frequently than others in the table, they all seem equally common (or uncommon) on the Sábke Roads.  A breakdown of the eight races would be as follows:
1:  Pé Chói
2:  Pygmy Folk
3:  Tinalíya
4:  Swamp Folk
5:  Páchi Léi
6:  Shén
7:  Ahoggyá
8:  Hláka
There is a 5% of encountering a “Caffle of slaves.”  (I suppose 'caffle' is an alternate spelling of 'coffle'.)  There are 1 - 100 slaves and 10 - 60 guards.  Maybe there should be 10 - 100 slaves with a number of guards based upon the number of slaves.  What if a referee rolled one slave and fifty guards?

There is a 10% chance of encountering 1 - 12 priests; 1d20 is rolled to determine God/Cohort.  The description states, “Roll other characteristics if needed,” but there is no reference to experience levels.  The table also lists a 5% chance of encountering a group of 1 - 20 adventurers and a 3% chance of encountering one magician (with 1 - 6 colleagues); however, with the adventurers and magician, referees are instructed to “roll for levels:  III - X.”  (Barker typically uses Roman numerals for experience levels.)  A range of '3 - 10' suggests 1d8 + 2, but it is reasonable to presume that 3rd level characters are more common than 10th level characters.  Perhaps 2d6 should be used to generate a flat distribution of 1 - 36.
01 - 08:  3rd level
09 - 15:  4th level
16 - 21:  5th level
22 - 26:  6th level
27 - 30:  7th level
31 - 33:  8th level
34 - 35:  9th level
        36:  10th level
There is a 3% chance of encountering a “Troop of 1-6 courtesans.”  The troop (troupe?) has an “entourage” of 1 - 12 musicians and 2 - 24 guards.

The most common type of encounter (20% chance) is a “Workgang of peasants, artisans, etc.”  Other than priests, the next most common type of encounter (10% chance) is with 10 - 1,000 Imperial soldiers.  The least likely encounters are with an Imperial messenger or a member of the Omnipotent Azure Legion (2% chance each).  Other possible encounters include “Tax collector,” “Caravan of merchants” and “Lord/lady.”

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