Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Further Musing on the Tekumel Underworld Feature Table

I've been thinking about that Tekumel Underworld Contents Table I posted a couple of days ago.

Although it is presumably for usage in a Empire of the Petal Throne campaign, the contents seem eminently useful for bog-standard vanilla fantasy, as well as weird gonzo fantasy. I really dig how the table is organized along the lines of traditional D&D "dungeon levels."

Let's start with Levels 1-3. Looking at the table, at the upper, "basic" levels of a dungeons complex, the probability breakdown is as follows:
City - 20%
Catacombs - 20%
Shrine - 10%
Temple - 5%
Tomb - 15%
Cache - 5%
Maze - 25%

Hohoho, chances are that adventurers are going to have to content with a maze during their initial forays into the dungeon complex! Although many dungeons are "maze-y" I interpret this to be a confusing, complex labyrinth. It may have been constructed with the intention of it being a maze, or it may be a complex of rooms and tunnels that have degraded and crumbled into a confusing mess.

Cities and catacombs are both even at 20%. I imagine cities to be the ruins of a fairly large settlement, somehow sunk into the earth by telluric forces or else initially constructed in the subterranean regions. I can also see a city result indicating a complex of rooms and passages inhabited by some variety of social, sentient beings such as trad D&D fare such as goblins and orcs.

Catacombs brings to mind tunnels with heaps of bones piled in niches, piled up to make walls, dessicated corpses linign the walls, and so forth. A cross between the Catacombs of Paris and "The Real Life Beherit Album Cover" of the Palermo Catacombs. Whereas tombs contain corpses in sturdy sarcophagi, the bodies are just piled up or hung from the walls in catacombs! a tomb. Not much exposition or imagineering needed here! Usually good loot and dangerous traps and/or guardians. The James Ward tables for tombs from The Best of Dragon Vol.1 would be a good resource.

I imagine a shrine to be a single or handful of rooms, a simple(r) fane. Perhaps still functioning, perhaps abandoned.

Temple brings to mind a sprawling complex, an underground cathedral, inhabited by hordes of crazed cultists. Shrines are dusty, temples are bejeweled.

Cache?!?! Despite the incongruity, cache works for me. Imagine the Ancient or Dark Ages version of a bomb shelter. Some rich noble and their family/followers builds a hidden underground bug-out shelter in case of disaster or a need to hide. As long as the contents haven't been looted, there should be some good stuff in a cache!


  1. The City entry originally meant those sections of Tekumel cities that were periodically buried when they rebuilt things on top of the old stuff. That could also be adapted to a non-Tekumel setting.

    This blast from the past certainly seems to have stirred up some ideas for you; that's cool. There's a lot of really good stuff buried in EPT that's clasic old school. Too bad it tends to get overlooked and forgotten.

  2. Oh yes, I'm aware of the Tekumulani rebuilding tradition and the dungeons that result, I'm just taking this in a more stream-of-consciousness inspiration vibe. Certainly there's many north american cities with buried, abandoned, older sections as well.

    You know my opinion regarding EPT being a substantial part of the "classic D&D dungeon" foundation! Lots of great dungeon (and other) inspiration in those old book, I'm really considering ordering the Pettigrew Excerpts booklet from Tita's House of Games.

  3. Is "trad" shorthand for "tried and true"?

  4. The article by Mark Pettigrew on Tekumel's Underworlds came up in a/the MegaDungoen thread over at Dragonsfoot a couple of years ago: