Sunday, December 22, 2013

Intelligent Races of Tékumel

Long ago,“Man and his nonhuman interstellar colleagues” attempted to terraform the world of Tékumel.  “The blood-purplish jungles were poisoned with chemicals and replaced with the familiar plants of the hundred worlds of Humanspace.”  Intelligent species indigenous to Tékumel “were allowed to survive only upon remote 'reservations.'”  Thus, Tékumel was colonized.  Then something happened.
It is clear now that through some freak of space, some fault in the fabric of time itself, the solar system of Tékumel was cast into some great other-dimensional “hole in the sky.”
In the ages that have passed since that event (tens of thousands of years), technology has declined to medieval levels, magic has manifested, and the indigenous races are no longer confined.  There are various intelligent species on Tékumel, most of whom – including humanity – came from elsewhere.  In Empire of the Petal Throne, Barker describes twelve intelligent nonhuman races, some friendly to man, some hostile, and others neutral.  “There are still other species,” Barker writes, “but players are not likely to encounter them in the areas of Tékumel in which they will operate.”

Barker does not populate Tékumel with elf-analogs and dwarf-analogs, nor does he have 'aliens' that are essentially humans with pointed ears or blue skin.  Barker has crafted beings that are decidedly unhuman, both in form and in sentiment.  For practical reasons, there is only so much information the rule books can convey about each of the races.  This is just as well since – with few exceptions – the nonhuman races tend to stay apart from mankind.  Without further ado, here are the intelligent (nonhuman) species of Tékumel.

Pé Chói (by Karen J. Englesen)
Pé Chói (“the Listeners”) – Among the various races, the Pé Chói are perhaps the friendliest to Man.  The have six limbs and adults are approximately seven feet tall.  Their hightened senses of sight and hearing allow them to easily perceive secret doors and invisible/inaudible entities.  “On a roll of 6 on a 6-sided die they can ESP a neighbouring room or chamber” in a manner, I assume, similar to the Priest spell.  When one of their number is slain, the Pé Chói will exact revenge on the perpetrator unless (a.) the slain Pé Chói attacked first or (b.) the death occurred during a battle in which Pé Chói are serving on both sides.  They are able to do this because the Pé Chói have “racial telepathy.”  This would seem to be quite useful.  The most obvious use would be to establish a long distance communications network; however, Barker makes no mention of any use other than revenge.

Swamp Folk (by Dave Sutherland)
Nininyal (“the Pygmy Folk”) –   These rodent-like beings stand about one meter in height.  They have exceptional hearing and can “see easily in pitch blackness.”   They are known for travelling and trading.  “Although they are capricious, they must be counted friends of man.”  They are ferocious in battle as well as bargaining.  (There is a Tsolyáni proverb:  'To bargain with a Pygmy is to throw away one's purse.')

Heglethyál (“the Swamp Folk”) – The Swamp Folk are four to six feet tall and have six limbs.  “They are squat, rotund, rubbery white creatures...with long slanted foreheads, [and] a bony central crest rising from the forehead and slanting backwards to a point...”  Although they do not employ magic, they are capable sailors and can “detect sloping passages, traps, and dimensional nexus points.”

Tinalíya (by Katherine J. Grantham)
Tinalíya (“the Gnome-like Ones”) – Although referred to by the rules as “humanoid,” these two-foot tall beings have two arms, four legs, and are “covered with horny integument.”  Although scholarly, they are viscous fighters when attacked and need not check for morale.  Each of “their lairs will contain at least one book of magical nature,” at least one scroll, and a few of those ancient technological devices known as “Eyes.”

Ahoggyá (by Sutherland)
Ahoggyá (“the Knobbed Ones”) –
They are knobbly, brownish, bristly creatures 4-5 feet in height, though tremendously broad and strong.  Their upper “chest” is surmounted by four powerful arms, and their eyes and eating apparatus lie beneath these under a horny protective ring.

Hláka (by Sutherland)

Hláka (“the Furred Flyers”) – As their wings and name suggest, the Hláka are capable of flying.  They have three eyes and greyish fur.  “Two arms and two legs are supplemented by a powerful tail fitted with a poisoned rapier-like blade.”  Barker does not inform us of the effects of the poison, but he notes that “Hláka make poor slaves and are always clamouring to return to their homeland.”
Also on Tékumel are the Shánu'u, “larger and heavier cousins” to the Hláka.  Presumably, they come from the same world.  Parties of Hláka are often found accompanied by one or more Shánu'u.  I suspect the relation of Shánu'u and Hláka is analogous to greater primates and humans.

Páchi Léi (by Englesen)
 Páchi Léi (“the Forest Dwellers”) –
They are doughy in appearance and have eight articulated limbs, using the first four to eat, fight, etc. and the remainder to move and balance in the trees of their jungle homes...They have a good chance at detecting secret doors and passages as they pass by them...Their huge, platter-shaped eyes give them nocturnal vision.
Although listed among the neutral species, Páchi Léi have a modifier towards friendliness on the Nonplayer Character Reaction Table and “have often become citizens of the human nations, and one or two examples of generals over human troops are recorded in history.”

Shén (by James Garrison)

Shén (“the Demon Warriors”) –
Their gleaming black scales and dragon-like appearance make them appear to be tall, demonic human warriors in fantastic plate armour.  They have long beak-like snouts and a glittering crest of slender spines, which they can extend or keep flat along their skulls...They walk on two legs and have two arms, as men do, but they also have a muscular tail with a mace-like horny appendage at the end.

Hlutrgú (by Sutherland)

Hlutrgú (“the Swamp Frogs”) – The illustration to the right shows the Hlutrgú as having four limbs; however, Barker states that they are four-legged creatures and that they “carry darts for spearing or throwing, using their four long arms.”  To me this suggests eight limbs, but perhaps there are only four limbs that can be used either as arms or legs.  (The illustrated Hlutrgú is shown grasping a spear with his 'foot'.)  Regardless, they “hate humans and nonhumans indiscriminately” and “have a particularly ugly reputation for torture and atrocities upon humans who fall into their clutches.”
I have not been able to discern if the Hlutrgú are native to Tékumel or if, in ancient times, they were interstellar partners of mankind.

Hlýss (by Englesen)

Hlýss (“the Spawn of the Old Ones”) – The Hlýss are an insectoid race who pre-date humanity's appearance on Tékumel.  They are described as “aquatic cousins” of the Ssú (see below).  They live on the Isle of the Hlýss with the great Hlýss mother and sometimes travel the seas “upon their hive-like ships, made from a stony bodily secretion.”  They possess “six legs and light chitinous armour, with a row of razor-sharp mandibles beneath their probosces” in addition to a tail with a sting capable of paralyzing opponents.  When encountered, Hlýss are likely to have magical weapons and ancient items of technology.  “The Hlýss collect all sorts of weapons, gems, and jewellery and have the latter set into their body-armour permanently.”

Vleshgayal (“the Shunned Ones”) – The Shunned Ones also pre-date the presence of humanity on Tékumel (and may even pre-date the Ssú).  They tend to remain ensconced in their sealed cities but “emerge from their isolation to seek magical items in the labyrinths beneath ruined cities.”
They are tall, ragged-looking spectral beings, with two extremely long arms and legs...They have a terrible and repellent stench that drives off humans and nonhumans alike.
Ssú (by Jeff Dee)
Ssú (“the Enemies of Man”) –
They are tall, slender, six-limbed beings wrapped in what looks like greyish shrouds (actually a loose integument which keeps shredding and pulling off).  They smell like musty cinnamon and make a high, sweet chiming sound.
Aside from their competency with magic, each Ssú of at least level IV can hypnotize 1-3 persons once per day.  If a saving throw is failed, the victim will be under the control of the Ssú “and he can be freed only by the death of the Ssú commanding him.”


  1. Interesting. Are any of the above races playable PC races, or are they solely encountered as NPCs? If they are playable, what sort of options are available to them?

    -Prince of Nothing.

    1. Barker expressly permits non-human PCs and all three professions are available to them. However, Barker states, "while nonhumans do have extra strength and powers, there is an increasing chance that a nonhuman character will wish to leave his human comrades and return to his own kind."

  2. Nice to see my old Shen isn't entirely forgotten...

    1. You have captured the true essence of Shén; all other Shén are just lizard men.

  3. Hlutrgú are not native to Tekumel and have always been enemies of mankind.