Friday, December 5, 2014

Was Empire of the Petal Throne one of the main inspirations for the magic system in Arrows of Indra?

This is a direct, uncomplicated question.  It is possible to answer it with a simple “yes” or “no.”  When the response to such a question includes personal attacks, unsupported allegations, defensive rambling, bizarre premises, and irrelevant arguments, it is only natural to become suspicious of the respondent.

But let's start at the beginning.

Arrows of Indra is a role-playing game authored by a person who chooses to identify himself as RPGPundit – the guy in charge of theRPGsite.  On that site there is a forum thread about “Magic in Arrows of Indra.”  In this thread, a person who chooses to identify himself as Prince of Nothing asks the question which serves as the title of this post.  (Full disclosure:  Prince of Nothing is an habitué of YDIS and is thus 'peripherally affiliated' with your humble host.)  As a reply, RPGPundit says many things, most of which are irrelevant to the simple question put forth to him.  Part of me wants to address all of his asinine remarks – the part that cries out for justice amid an ocean of obfuscation; yet I shall stay true to my course.

The portion of RPGPundit's response that actually relates to the question is:  “There's some similarities in the magic system.”  I'm no linguist, but this might be Uruguayan slang for “well, I changed the names at least.”  The Prince has been banned from RPGPundit's site, so he has taken up his discourse at YDIS.  The Prince shows that, instead of “some similarities,” the likeness is more akin to 'substantially equivalent'.  The two magic systems are not identical, but they are so alike that RPGPundit made a conscious decision to mimic Empire of the Petal Throne.  I don't have a problem with that.  I do have a problem with RPGPundit's steadfast avoidance of admitting the truth.

I would like to use graphics to demonstrate the Prince's points.  Material from Arrows of Indra appears courtesy of the Open Gaming License and is used for purposes of education and critique.  Although I previously discussed the EPT magic system, I will briefly cover some of the same ground here.

In both EPT and AoI, each class has a set of skills.  In EPT, skills later in a list are more 'powerful' than skills earlier in a list and, generally speaking, as a character gains experience levels, he or she acquires new skills in list order.  In AoI, there are basic skills and advanced skills and, generally speaking, as a character gains experience levels, he or she acquires basic skills before advanced skills.  In EPT, many of the 'skills' for priests and magic-users are actually spells.  In AoI, many of the 'skills' for Priests and magic-users Siddhis are actually spells.  Let's take a look; the thick red lines connect an EPT skill (left) to the substantially equivalent AoI skill (right).

First, we have priests/Priests:

And now, magic-users/Siddhis:

In EPT, priests and magic-users have access to a common group of other spells called “bonus spells”.  In AoI, Priests and Siddhis have access to a common group of other spells called “enlightenment powers.”  In EPT, the 'other spells' are divided into three 'groups' according to power level.  In AoI, the 'other spells' are divided into three 'groups' 'ranks' according to power level.  As characters in either game gain experience levels, they have percentile chances of gaining spells/powers from different groups/ranks.  Admittedly, the method RPGPundit 'created' for AoI is more user friendly:

Here are comparisons of “bonus spells/enlightenment powers” for each “group/rank.”  Please note that the order of the EPT spells as presented here is different from the order presented in the book (not that it matters).


This post is not a condemnation of the OSR.  It is certainly not a condemnation of Barker's work.  It's not even a condemnation of Arrows of Indra.  (However, I would recommend Against the Dark Yogi rather than Arrows of Indra.)  This post is a condemnation of RPGPundit's misrepresentations.

In replying to the question, RPGPundit ought to have said something like, “I adapted the magic system from Empire of the Petal Throne because Professor Barker handled it very well.”  Evidently, such a statement is too onerous for his tender ego to bear.

RPGPundit stood upon the shoulders of giants; sadly, he chose to wipe his feet on them.


  1. This is an excellent comparative post, perdustin. It would be great to hold the NKVDPundit's feet to this fire; but that seems unlikely, as you demonstrate in his evasive replies.


    UN Neutral Observer

  2. The funny thing is, none of this would have happened if Pundit hadn't been slagging EoPT and Barker's work recently to flog his own clone.

    1. I read RPG Pundit's Blog regularly, though I do not always agree with him. Every time I see him mention Prof Barker and EPT he seems to be pretty positive.

    2. (Ugh, third try at a reply...)

      On RPGSite, he's been flogging AoI by slagging off Tekumel and its players. He at one point said AoI's setting was superior and, for proof, offered an XKCD comic about made-up words. In his latest meltdown on the board in response to Prince of Nothing's review, he does even more of this.

      Then he was asked about AoI's magic system. He gave a lengthy explanation of how he crafted said system after much study of Indian mythology and careful thought. Turns out it was just a crib from Barker's game.

      Pundit has a long history of slagging off EoPT, actually. A thread years back on RPGSite was entitled "Tekumel: What the Fuck?"

    3. I think I remember that review! I thought it amusing at the time but some of the shit he is spouting over at RPGSite makes me think he has a really big chip on his shoulder with regards to EPT and Professor Barker. A former gamer?

    4. Ah. I don't read RPGSite. I'm just going by what I see on his personal blog. Must be a big difference.

  3. As a man boarded in Psychiatry and Neurology
    experience has taught me that arrogance is often a
    cover for incompetence or theft

    your recent analysis of the pundit
    confirms my observation

  4. Perdustin,

    You are the fire burning in my wake. Pundit cannot 1984 us forever, and he should have just copped to it. And your retro-reviews are informative and generally well done.


  5. Good fun. As I boycott "pundit's" blog, I have to enjoy the fallout rather than the bomb itself, so thanks.

  6. Shit, i should also point out sometimes Pundit has taken the effort of switching bonus spells from level 1 to enlightenment tier 2. So the similarities you point out are actually slightly understated.


  7. I'm sure it'sjust a coincidence from deep immersion in the source material, yeah, yeah, that's the ticket.

  8. Mr. Pundit does indeed come across as a dick. I have a mental picture of him frothing at the mouth in a wild-eyed rage as he typed those responses! I have my own fantasy India (and SE Asia) setting in "the Garden of Kama" but I never thought to "borrow" from EPT.

  9. Wow. I never had much patience for RPGPundit's blog, since it never had titles or tags, just the date posted. Crapping on Tekumel to cover your debt to it is pretty lame. Is it possible they are both just ripping off Indian folklore? I'd have said so but the fact that they both have the same hierarchy or ranking on their tables makes plagiarism (on the Pundit's part, in the sense of not crediting one's sources if not copying verbatim) seem more likely.

  10. I should let this go, but i am going to answer that last question with a definitive no. Perdustin actually slightly understates the similarities in the tables(Pundit switched one or two powers to a different tier and medium is an edited The Spirit Vision, and i think there is another healing power for both priests and priests that is the same, you are getting soft Perdustin). If you read the power descriptions the plagiarism becomes obvious. Not to mention some of the magical items are almost literal copy-paste jobs.
    Ripping off someone who is ripping off Indian Folklore is still technically ripping off Indian folklore though, it's just that a formal acknowledgement would have been gentlemanly, and claiming the work for yourself while shitting on EoPT is unforgiveable.

    Thanks again for putting it up Perdustin.

    -PrinceofNothing(transphobic doxxie stalker)

  11. I admit to understating the commonalities and I cannot deny being soft. However, in my defence, it was my object to present RPGPundit's perfidy in a succinct manner. In doing so, I bypassed certain details that further proved the point.

    The 'ripping off Indian folklore' excuse is not valid. Barker's magic system was original (especially considering that OD&D was the only other RPG at the time). While Barker's setting was inspired -- in part -- by Indian folklore, there is nothing distinctly 'Indian' about his magic system. It is no more 'authentic' than the standard D&D 'character level/spell level' system. Like I said, RPGPundit made a conscious decision to mimic Barker's system.

  12. Defence noted and accepted. He totally ripped off the magic system.

    Speaking of Indian Folklore, I was always under the impression EoPT took as much inspiration from Indian Folklore as it did from Mesoamerican folklore(e.g the human sacrifices, no horses, names of those legions, rarity of steel weapons etc.). I'm no Indian mythology buff though, so we should probably ask the author of the bestest most historically accurate retro-game based on Indian mythology.

    (When you dive into the two, the similarities start to become staggering. His entire Major sutra section was pretty much copy-pasted from EoPT aswell. Divine intervention rules also. All the cool wonderous items. Shame he didn't go all the way, hooked up with someone with talent and made an EoPT retro-clone. Ah well.)


  13. Yes. Most people, IMO, until fairly recently would have connected EPT to Central America before they did to India.

  14. I was thinking maybe both were looking at list from Patanjali or something but I guess his list is much briefer than I thought. (
    So it looks like there is no reasonable doubt here -- RPGPundit is a plagarist, and from I've seen now at his forums, if you call him on it, he goes berserk and changes the subject. Classy. A simple "Yes, I copied a lot of this from EPT" would have gone a long a way to re-establishing his credibility. I don't really buy RPG stuff anyway, but at least I know to steer the hell clear of his stuff.

  15. I like his blog, don't necessarily agree with him, but it does seem like a simple "yes, EotPT was an inspiration" would have been more truthful and would not have harmed him.

    I wonder if he also invented Str, Int, Wis, DEX, Con, Cha as stats for RPGs.

  16. Hmm. It seems as though Pundit (I'd name him, but apparently some people object to that) has emulated Ray Feist, insofar as "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery" is concerned. Granted, Feist claims to have done so unwittingly, but maybe that reflects even worse on Pundit.

    Full disclosure: I am the chair of the Tekumel Foundation, so finding out about this stuff is...interesting. :)