Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Fonts of Tékumel

If you're an old school gamer you've undoubtedly heard of Tékumel, the game world created by professor M.A.R. Barker.

During the 70s Dungeons and Dragons was developing a milieu that was heavily influenced by Tolkien's European viewpoint. Barker went in a much different direction, creating an incredibly detailed world based on more esoteric Eastern traditions and history with a sprinkling of weird fantasy. To this day it's probably the most fleshed out gaming world ever created.

One of the really fascinating parts of Tékumel is that it features multiple, fully developed languages and scripts.  The Tékumel site includes half a dozen fonts based on those writing styles, including the Tsolyáni script pictured here.  They're fascinating in and of themselves, but from a prop making perspective they have the advantage of looking appropriately alien and being truly obscure.

Here's a "Quick Brown Fox" map of the reverse Tsolyáni font using all caps.
While the fonts are a real treasure I'd suggest browsing through the rest of the archive as well.  You can spend hours immersing yourself in a truly unique world.


Dr. Theda said...

Nice post.... we had studied Many ancient runes and glyphs.... (Entimology and the origins of these alphabetic figures...) .... a great weekend to you and congrats on the (very quick) book sale...

Raven said...

Long, long ago, back in the '70s, while living in northern Indiana, I would drive down to Bloomington, Indiana, to hang out with the Indiana University SF and SCA groups. One member of both (the herald of the SCA group and thus my colleague) was a teenager called "Mike" Ford, "Miles Atherton de Grey" in the SCA, who was also a dungeonmaster and (for security) kept his DM notes in Tsolyáni — I was very much impressed.

Mike also wrote cartoons, SF short stories which he sent off to New York, and... well... the sad fact is, he ended up leaving IU and Bloomington. Some startup magazine in New York called Asimov's hired him as an editor.

You might remember him better under his full name, John M. Ford.

Propnomicon said...

@ Dr. Theda
Thank you for the very kind words.

@ Raven

Sweet fancy Moses, what a small world it is. It was Mr. Ford's review of the FGU "Space Opera" rules in Asimov's that turned me on to SF gaming. I'd been a heavy DnD player, but didn't even realize SF games existed until running across his "On Playing Roles" articles.

Years later, back in 1995, I was involved in a flame war on usenet over the relative writing abilities of Mr. Ford and Gary Gygax. No, seriously, this was a thing. He sent me a very nice email as a result, and my head almost exploded in a burst of fanboyish happiness.