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Monday 6 July 2020

Restraints & Responsibilities

High and Dry is an introductory adventure for Béthorm: The Plane of Tékumel, the most recent roleplaying game to explore the world of Tékumel, the linguistic and cultural setting developed by Professor M.A.R. Barker. Published by UniGames, it is designed to be played between four and six players with beginning characters, but can easily be adjusted should there be more. It takes place in the small town of Mishábar, east of Katalál which has been beset by a rash of disappearances. All three of them have been of good clan women belonging to the Flat Rock clan of Mishábar, but worse, the disappearances have disrupted the Flat Rock clan’s farming business. Worse than that, this has come to the attention of the local clan’s patron and since business has been disrupted, there must be something wrong. From this background, High and Dry comes not with one introduction, but five! There is one each for if the Player Characters are all from the same Clan, from the same temple, from the same legion, they belong to a bunch of typical adventurers, or the Game Master is running a ‘Heroes of the Age’ campaign. So, if the Player Characters are from the Clan or temple, they are sent to find out why the most recent grain shipment is late; if they belong to a Legion, then they have been sent to assess the condition of a ruined fort near Mishábar, for possible future strategic use; if they are adventurers, then they will have heard childhood tales about the ruins of an accursed castle east of Katalál, and after hearing of the disappearances, decide to visit; and lastly, in an ‘Heroes of the Age’ campaign, they are drawn by a vision.

What the Player Characters find in Mishábar is a fraught situation. The local Clan Chief and mayor Shrakán hiTekkú’une has reacted poorly to the situation that both he and the town find themselves in. Not only is his third wife, Dijáya, one of the missing women, but he knows that the town and the clan are in trouble because of the missed grain shipment. This has made him paranoid and exacerbated his pettiness—he does not trust the newly arrived Player Characters, but he wants their help in locating the missing women and solving the situation before it escalates out of his control. The other clan elders are worried about the mayor’s current mental state and what it means for the future of the clan as well as the disappearances.

Dealing with the bullish mayor will be a challenge for beginning Player Characters, and even if they have greater status than he does—a distinct possibility—they may need to be subtle about how they deal with him rather running over him roughshod with their social differences. Ultimately, whether the Player Characters are pushed to act by the mayor or working with the other elders, they will find themselves tracking down the missing women. The actual mystery behind the missing women will actually be very quickly solved, being tied to the ruins of the accursed castle east of Katalál. As this should be the Player Characters’ first adventure this should be played up to be slightly creepy, but should otherwise be a straightforward bit of action to counter the awkward social situation in Mishábar.

High and Dry can really be divided into two parts—the social and the action, but its primary focus is upon the social interaction with the mayor and the elders. The issue with this is that the scenario does not include notes to help explain to the Player Characters their roles and responsibilities and thus their standing with the mayor when dealing with him. All of course will vary according to the positions held by the Player Characters—clan, temple, military, or mere adventurers, but some advice would have been useful. There is advice on the Tsolyáni custom of Shámtla or ‘blood money’, and this is useful as it does feature in the scenario.

Physically, High and Dry is a fifteen-page, full colour, 16.04 MB PDF. The artwork is excellent, the maps are decent, and everything is easy to read. Unfortunately, High and Dry does need another edit.

As an introductory adventure, High and Dry works best with the Player Characters as members of a Clan, Temple, or Legion. The lack of advice on handling the social interaction and the relationship between the Player Characters may hinder players new to Tékumel and the Empire of the Petal Throne, but experienced ‘Petalheads’ will not have a problem. Similarly, a Game Master with knowledge of Tékumel will not have a problem running High and Dry, and if necessary, can supply the advice on handling the social interaction and the relationship between the Player Characters at the heart of the scenario. Overall, High and Dry is a good introductory scenario for playing on Tékumel with Béthorm: The Plane of Tékumel, but will benefit from being run by a knowledgeable Game Master.

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