About this project
What is Béthorm?
Béthorm: the Plane of Tékumel RPG revives the classic Tékumel® role-playing game setting, powered by the Pocket Universe system from UNIgames' award-winning game designers! The book is projected to be 240+ pages in length, with over 70 illustrations. Look in the FAQ for a description of the game system. Very nice reviews of Pocket Universe are posted here and here.
What is Tékumel?
Tékumel was the first complete RPG setting ever published, in 1975's 'Empire of the Petal Throne'. My eldest brother, who introduced me to Dungeons & Dragons, bought it for us when it first came out - and I was instantly hooked.
In a nutshell, it's a fantasy world in the far future with a science-fiction premise - developed in astonishingly rich and fascinating detail. Its creator, the late Professor M.A.R. Barker, has been described as the 'Forgotten Tolkien'. Here are a few examples of the praise that he and his creation have earned:
Okay, but what's the game about?
Tékumel offers a whole world of adventures. Strange alien creatures prowl the wilderness. Competing clans jealously guard their business monopolies. Mighty heroes do battle in the arenas. Underground chambers hold vast treasures. Opposing temples wrestle for Imperial influence. Pirates and monsters prowl the steaming seas. Automatons guard ancient hoards of technological wonders. Imperial heirs compete for ascension to the Petal Throne. Enemy empires plot the overthrow of Tsolyánu. Hostile nonhuman races seek the destruction of Mankind. The Undying Wizards guard - and manipulate - the timeline. Nexus points open to the Demon Realms. And the Pariah Gods seek the end of existence itself!
Béthorm is a skill-based system, so your character can have any combination of stats and skills you want. Béthorm offers a wide range of different fighting styles, and 20 different paths of magical study, You can implore the gods for divine intervention, and engage in spell research. You could be a soldier in an Imperial legion, a mercenary hiring your sword to the highest bidder, a member of a secret society within your temple, a sorcerer mastering ancient spells, a diplomat immersed in the dangers of foreign lands, a wealthy bravo seeking adventure, a scholar studying secrets of the ancient past... anything you desire!
Béthorm isn't about just one type of adventure, because Tékumel is a world of such rich detail that any of those types of characters and storylines are possible. It's entirely up to you which themes to explore within this amazing world. For one example, check out this series of session reports from my own Béthorm campaign.
For a great introduction to Tékumel, visit the tekumel.com website. When you inevitably find yourself hungry for more and bursting with questions, explore the wonderfully detailed Tékumel FAQ maintained by Brett Slocum.
What's the money for?
The Béthorm manuscript exists in a form that's been sufficient for our private use, but significant work remains to be done to refine it for publication. This will take time, and time is money.
- Spell Revision. Béthorm's spell list was converted directly from the previous Tékumel-based RPGs 'Swords & Glory' and 'Gardásiyal'. Playtesting has revealed that the spell list needs to be condensed and slightly re-organized for ease of gameplay. Those who've played those games may have an inkling of what I'm talking about. I'm about 1/4 of the way through that process, and my playtesters report that it is working. But I still need to complete that task, and it's a BIG spell list.
- Creature Balance. Pocket Universe assigns each creature a 'power rating', giving the GM a rough guide to how many beginning PCs it takes to equally match it. I've discovered that in the process of converting the creature stats from the Gardásiyal Bestiary to Pocket Universe, I've introduced a bug in my calculations that is resulting in inaccurate power ratings. I think I know what the problem is, but I still need to exactly track it down and fix it. Then I'll need to re-balance all of the creatures, and it's a BIG list. [DONE!]
- Setting Information. Currently, the Béthorm RPG document generates Tékumel-appropriate characters, with all of the Tékumel-specific information you need. But it doesn't include explanations of things like what a clan is, what chlén-hide is, and so on. I still need to write simple explanations those concepts, so that a newbie can play the game without requiring all of the previously published sourcebooks. It's not our intention to duplicate all of that information in complete detail - just enough so that readers can go, "oh, I get it", and move forward. It'll be a tricky balance, and that task still remains to be completed.
- Final Illustrations. I've already completed four Tékumel art Kickstarter projects, in which I've produced 62 illustrations - mostly of the creatures which appeared in the original Empire of the Petal Throne game. Eleven more illustrations need to be created in order to show what all of the original EPT creatures look like, and creating those remaining illustrations will be part of this Kickstarter project. They include:
- Aqá'a (the Worms of the Catacombs)
- Ngóro (the Whelks)
- Ngrútha (the Leeches)
- Pé Chói (the Listeners)
- Pygmy Folk
- Qáqtla (the Swamp Snakes)
- Sró (the Dragons)
- Swamp Folk
- Tinalíya (the Gnome-Like Ones)
- Tletlákha (the Mouths With Eyes)
- Tsóggu (the Drowned Ones)
- Final Editing: Once all of the major issues in the document have been addressed, a final editing pass will be needed to check for spelling, grammar, clarity, and so on.
- Page Layout: The finished document needs to be laid out in a desktop publishing program.
You may add any combination of these choices to your pledge. Select any pledge level of $20 or more, while adding the following amounts to the actual amount of your pledge. For example, if you want the $20 PDF and the $8 cardboard miniatures AND the $16 signed letter-sized Pé Chói print, pledge $44 and select the $20 pledge level. I can figure out exactly what to send you using those numbers.
- +$1 An Excel character sheet for Béthorm. Speeds up character creation!
- +$2 A color PDF featuring 4 cardboard miniatures of popular nonhuman player races: the Pé Chói, Hláka, Ahoggyá and Tinalíya!
- +$4 A postcard-sized print of the new Tinalíya illustration by Jeff Dee!
- +$8: A color PDF featuring 12 different cardboard miniatures of creatures of the underworld!
- +$16 A letter-sized print of the new Pé Chói illustration, signed by artist Jeff Dee
- +$32 A set of postcard-sized prints of the 11 basic funding level illustrations PLUS any b&w illustrations that get unlocked as stretch goals!
- +$64 A full-color, 17" x 22" poster of Denis Loubet's painting from the Bethorm rulebook cover, signed by the artist
- +$128 A set of signed letter-sized prints of the 11 basic funding level illustrations PLUS any b&w illustrations that get unlocked as stretch goals, signed by artist Jeff Dee!
- +$256 An 8 1/2" x 11" custom color portrait of the Tékumel character or creature of your choice by artist Jeff Dee, with a signed certificate of authenticity and its official Béthorm: Plane of Tékumel stats printed on a separate sheet!
The following bonuses will be unlocked when the project funding these levels:
UNLOCKED! $10500: City of Katalál Map & Gazetteer! Everyone who pledges at least $20 gets a PDF of one mega-hex of map with descriptions of local sites from our upcoming Kurt Hill Map & Gazetteer product! Based on Prof. Barker's Northwest Frontier Map & Gazetteer (example).
UNLOCKED! $11000: Introductory Adventure! Every backer who pledges $40 or more gets a PDF of "High & Dry". Disappearances from a rural farming village have thrown the clans into confusion, and delayed grain shipments. You and your companions must root out the cause and put things to rights!
UNLOCKED! $11500: Adventure 2! Every backer who pledges $60 or more gets a PDF of "The Circle of Columns" (previously available as a 'system agnostic' adventure for backers of one of my art Kickstarters, this version has Béthorm-specific mechanics and a cover illustration). What secrets lie beneath this ancient circle of carven pillars?
UNLOCKED! $12000: Color cover painting! The Béthorm rulebook in the video displays a color sketch of the cover painting we'd like to commission from renowned industry artist Denis Loubet. Unlocking this stretch goal also unlocks a new add-on: a signed 17" x 22" color poster of Denis's cover art, signed by the artist!
UNLOCKED! $12750: More Art: Creatures of the Underworld! The basic funding level includes stats and illustrations of all the creatures and races listed in the original Empire of the Petal Throne RPG, plus stats for more Tsolyáni creatures which were added to the canon later. This stretch goal unlocks illos of 3 of those newer creatures! The original art will be available as backer rewards:
- Atlún (the Spiders)
- Jájgi (the Exalted Undead)
- Srámuthu (the Jolly Strangers)
UNLOCKED! $13500: More More Art: Inimical Races!
- Hokún (the Glass-Monsters)
- Mihálli (the Shape-Shifters)
- Nyaggá (the Dwellers Below)
UNLOCKED! $14250: Even More Art: Creatures of the Plains!
- Kité (the Little Whirlwind)
- Kókh (the Blood-Lizard)
- Tlékku (the Dog)
UNLOCKED! $15000: Yet More Art: Forest Creatures!
- Dlikkén (the One Who Is Many)
- Nráishu (the Night Stag)
- Sikún (the Little Men)
UNLOCKED! $15750: Even Yet Still More Art: Creatures of the Swamp & Jungle!
- Chnáu (the Swift Viper)
- Hlu'ún (the Lost Child)
- Shivrái (the Drill-Bug)
UNLOCKED! $16500: Extreme Amounts Of Art: Desert Creatures!
- Epéng (the Snake-Like Colony)
- Míku (the Armored Lizard)
- Utánakh (the Hidden Spear)
UNLOCKED! $17250: Ridiculous Amounts Of Art: Water Creatures!
- Étla (the Crab)
- Kátru (the Clam)
- Zo'óra (the God of the Deep)
UNLOCKED! $18000: Insane Amounts Of Art: Friendly Races!
- Chíma (the Seafarers)
- Nóm (the Ebon Sailors)
- Urunén (the Cold-Dwellers)
UNLOCKED! $18500: City Map: The Bethorm rulebook includes a full-page black & white map of the city of Katalal by brilliant mapmaker Alyssa Faden, plus a separate map key indicating its most important sites.
BONUS! Limited Edition Glyph: Every copy of Bethorm purchased through this Kickstarter - PDF, softcover or hardcover - will contain a special glyph and the words "Special Edition" on the title page. The glyph will be specially created for this purchase by author/artist Jeff Dee, inspired by the glyphs depicted in Prof. Barker's Book of Ebon Bindings (example here).
Tékumel and its related products and materials are copyright 1975 and 2014 by Prof. M.A.R. Barker. Tékumel is a registered trademark.
Risks and challenges
I've been involved with 3 successful role-playing game book Kickstarters and over a dozen art Kickstarters. While projects of those kinds do entail certain risks and challenges, I'm well acquainted with them and foresee no problems in those areas.
What's unique about this project is that we're licensing the Tékumel setting from the Tékumel Foundation. I've relied on them to provide visual reference before, but we'll be even more dependent on them to complete a full RPG. For example, some creatures were labelled 'semi-intelligent' in earlier Tékumel RPGs, but they displayed sentience in later works. Our Pocket Universe system assigns an Intellect stat to every creature, and so we'll need a canon answer to this apparent discrepancy. If the Foundation is slow to respond, it could delay the book.
Once the book is completed, publication requires approval by the Tékumel Foundation. There could be delays on their part over which we have no control.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter