Sunday, 7 August 2016

Toys for Tékumel

In Tsolyànu and the other four empires of Tékumel technology plays second fiddle to magic, but the inhabitants aren't complete slouches when it comes to chemistry and mechanics. This is a list of equipment you might find available in marketplaces here and there, or even create yourself if you have the appropriate skill.

Jnéksha'a sticks

Named for the mighty demonic Scythe of Flame and Ravener of Cities these are actually just friction matches. They consist of a blob of powdered chlorate of potash mixed with camphor, sulphide of antimony and some hard tree resin on the end of a thin wooden stick three inches long. They are kept in a box made from a short length of bamboo and closed at the ends with wooded lids. With a bit of scraping on the side of the box they burst into flame, a miracle of Vimúhla! Come in boxes of multiples of nine, this being the sacred number of that god. You can spot the very low clan workers who make them by 'phossy jaw', a painful necrosis of the teeth and jaw bone caused by phosphorous poisoning.

Roll a d6 to use, they ignite on a 1-5 and break or fizzle out and become useless on a 6, and are harder to light outdoors only going off on a 1-2. Cost 3 káitars for a box of nine.


Distilled from certain tars and mineral oils this delightfully volatile and flammable substance can be bought at Temples of Vimúhla for fiery libations to the Lord of Red Devastation, or just chucked at your enemies in a glass grenade with a smouldering fuse. Only hold it long enough for a brief prayer to Jmár the Lord of Flame though, this stuff is pretty dangerous. Cost 2 káitars a bottle or 5 for the stuff mixed with viscous palm oil. The normal grade burns for a mere one round, the palm oil variant for 1d6.

Powder of Extinguishing

Every now and again you have to douse a fire quickly, and a jar of the pale blue dust from the Desert of Stolen Breaths (asbestos) does the job nicely. Costs 15 káitars a jar as the slaves sent to dig the stuff up and package it don't last very long and need continual replacement.

The Cunning Firestarter of Zi'po

A box of beaten bronze filled with light naphtha and equipped with a neat little mechanism of flint, steel and springs, these are a bit of a status symbol among the richer followers of Vimúhla. A basic one will set you back 50 káitars, but many are inlaid with gold and decorated with red glass cloisonne or gems, wrought in the form of a demon etc. and are as expensive as jewellery. Much more reliable than mere matches, roll a d20, ignites on 1-18, merely sparks on a 19, runs out of fuel on a 20.

Physicians Kit

Rice-paper and cotton bandages, some chlen hide splints, a curved bronze needle and some thread, a selection of faience amulets to bind over wounds, a cup and knife for bleeding and restoring the balance of the humours, some aniseed for cleansing the breath (and thus the Balétl, the spirit-soul), some bitter roots as an emetic, some pure white chalk for writing a prayer to Avánthe or Keténgku on the injured limb, all the modern Tsolyani first aider needs. 20 káitars for a neatly packed leather satchel, roll d8 for each use, on an 8 supplies have run out.

Speaker to Mortals

One magical item sometimes found in the underworld is 'The Speaker to Mortals'. Often mistaken for the much more potent 'Speaker to Gods', these are black glassy slabs framed and backed with that strange ancient 'metal' that is not quite metallic. With a bit of work from a sorcerer if they have any power they can be activated to create a soft glow marked by colourful ancient glyphs and by poking certain of these glyphs in a particular order another Speaker to Mortals can be induced to emit a musical tune, and if you press a certain glyph voice communication can be established between the users. They sometimes have subsidiary functions, but generally sorcerers don't like messing about with them too much as they can shut down or start doing strange things like exposing invisible demons hiding on street corners. Communication can be patchy, especially underground, and works best when the moon Káshi is in the sky. Cost 5000 káitars plus 100 more per glyph sequence that will activate another known Speaker. Will run out of charge on a roll of 20 on a d20.

Getting the sequence wrong results in a number of effects. One poor soul nearly wet himself when he found himself talking to a Ssú through this device, and was even more petrified when it announced itself to be Bássa, King of the Black Ssú, and demanded to know why he was making prank calls in the middle of the night. They are known to be haunted by an annoying demon named Sìri who asks stupid questions and dispenses useless advice in an ancient language.