e gary gygax castle greyhawk campaign robert kuntz kalibruhn theron kuntz empire of zothar the zothar campaign dave arneson blackmoor m.a.r. barker tekumel ept dungeons and dragons tsr interface lord robilar lord teric modulization primal rpg intensification heroic form
By Lord Teric
Is there something else we can learn from Professor M.A.R. Barker? Sure thing! When Professor Barker presented Tekumel to TSR, it wasn't designed for use with the D&D system, although Professor Barker knew the D&D system could integrate with it. Dr. Barker was being a purist. A farfetched statement? Not exactly. There's a certain word that develops from avant-garde work and academic recognition, called "deconstruction," which allowed Professor Barker to navigate away from nontraditional design to a formal design based on the human condition and heroic literature. Professor Barker was able to easily, and most conveniently, deconstruct the most simple tenets underscoring the design ideologies and precedences from Mr. Gygax's Castle Greyhawk Campaign and Mr. Arneson's Blackmoor game. Two design irregularities avoided for the development of Tekumel were the recurring generation of "groups" of monsters (and NPCs) and escalation of their treasures and constant "adventures" by RPG participants into the "depths" of a dungeon.
It's of no doubt that Professor Baker had held his own design tenets for some time--long before the starting of Greyhawk and Blackmoor. What underscored the design sematics of Professor Barker's Tekumel was the survival of civilization (the human condition) and the heroic form, such as the heroic battles of Achilles vs. Hector or Beowulf vs. Grendel. The participant of Tekumel would challenge, and be challenged by, the Tekumel inhabitants, including challenges from other available participants. Occasionally, a Tekumel participant would compete against a civilized creature. The more you won, whether in combat or individual trial, the more you would be recognized as a survivor of civilization--thus increasing both your rank (level) and wealth.
As for Kalibruhn, or the World of Kalibruhn, which it became known, this was entirely a planned D&D-supported RPG or FRP and conworld design. "Robilar" had, however, created aspects of Kalibruhn through the convenience of modulization. The concept of the D&D module provided D&D system followers with an inexpensive and packaged mini-adventure. "Robilar" started his own game design business using the module mini-adventure game for his World of Kalibruhn Adventure series, employing the complete D&D system, along with his knowledge of proto-RPG development. The firsthand information he acquired about TSR's marketing directions for primal RPG exploitation and his sagacity and acumen for FRP dynamics and design, "Robilar" created several successful mini-adventures that could be recognized as "ultra-D&D" games because of his affiliations to the Castle Greyhawk Campaign and the World of Greyhawk as Mr. Gygax's righthand man and co-creator of the D&D system. "Robilar's" design precedences were based on experiential ingenuity and the deontological aspects of Mr. Gygax's D&D and RPG system prejudices, practices, and the system's abstract and rigid heteronomy.
During 1974, I began creating The Zothar Campaign, variously referred to as "Zothar," "World of Zothar," and the "Zothar Empire," before determining the extent of my creative endeavor that, eventually, became entitled the Empire of Zothar. The title used on its small geographical outline map might have been slightly variant. This map, created with Letraset transfers and hand-drawn terrain features, such as the "Undaunted Desert," the "Northern Jungles," the extent of the "Shield Wall," and the large "island" to the southeast, was sold at an auction by Ernie Gygax. Ernie's map, however, was just a copy of the original map artwork.
Beginning in 1975, the interface for my RPG was built-up to the degree that it would suffice to introduce Zothar to prospective participants. One of the first participants for my Zothar Campaign RPG was "Lord Robilar." The interface elements contained a newly-devised individual (man-2-man) combat system with a "vulnerability chart" setup to cross reference the fighting and protection capabilities of participants with hit location and seriousness of wounds. Percentile dice were used by the adventurers to determine their outcomes. Integrating magic into the vulnerability concept proved difficult, forcing me to accept either an adaptation to the vulnerability concept of the D&D magic system or employing the entire D&D magic system. It was at this point, after testing some alternatives of integrating the melee combat system with the D&D magic system, I realized what was required: a generic system so that integration would be easy. With a generic system approach, authors of RPG conworlds and connations, and those gamemasters who were using other systems, such as D&D and EPT, would only need to make estimates from the "host systems" in order to make or breed a "clone system"; otherwise for non-integration purposes, the generic-mode rule sources could handle anything, including the non-intrusive addition of other technologies into a Sword & Sorcery RPG scheme, for example. My discovery had real merit, but I was still employed at TSR, so I kept mums about the generic mode, surely to avoid legal matters with TSR's intellectual property and encroaching on TSR's market share, which was steadily advancing. Steve Jackson had, at the time, created some convention of the generic mode, but his conceptions weren't necessarily understood by TSR's design and production teams.
Another aspect of Zothar's interface was dungeon adventuring or "searching" for participants, and in most cases, these were setup on the same conventions that Gary Gygax had demonstrated to us in his Castle Greyhawk Campaign proto-RPG. Using available geomorphs, purchased from the Dungeon Hobby Shop, I began creating 8" x 12" dungeon levels. Since the number of geomorphs were limited in the package, I re-cut the Dungeon Geomorph levels into 1" x 1" and 2" x 2" sections, allowing me to create more variant dungeon levels with the basic scheme of 8" x 12", and sometimes a sub-level or smaller dungeon level. To decentralize participant activity on Zothar's map, several dungeons from 1-10 levels were placed throughout Zothar. Participants had to learn about or discover where they were located in order to reuse them. "Lord Robliar's" character learned about one within Zothar by following information clues while residing at Zothar's capitol city, Arden. This happen to be a major section of lost art paintings (artifacts), including a portrait of a beholder. The wall-mounted paintings were magical, allowing a participant to step into another dimension.
The concept of modulization brought life to the Zothar Campaign RPG. The extension of the routine "adventure" through other means, such as alternate dimensions and nonplayer characters, were others available to "gamemasters."