Saturday, November 22, 2014

U Bien Bridge, Myanmar (or Burma, if you prefer...)

There is a blemish on the Swords and Glory map, on the line between hexes 3013 and 2914, an ink smudge that I have chosen to interpret as a series of lakes. :-)

My assumption is that these shallow lakes change in water level throughout the year. I assume the sakbe road that runs across them is similar to that that runs down to Penom or to Purdimal. That is, it is of wood supported upon piles.

Where the U Bien Bridge comes into the picture is I think the local communities are linked to the road and to each other by similar bridges. U Bien bridge is located in Myanmar and is about 1.2 km long, crossing a large lake. It was built in the 1800's from teak logs from a palace that was being abandoned. 

Shown below are some of the screenshots showing some mapping progress. These are actually 3-4 weeks old and I have progressed beyond this point in certain aspects. They show the shallow lakes plus the "Chega Lakes" which I invented to account for the winding path of the unfinished sakbe road that runs south from Hauma. They also show my attempts to locate the village of Nisuel and Jikutlar fief, which appear in one of the solo game books. IIRC, Nisuel is the seat of the Golden Sunburst Clan. In the game book it is stated to be 100 tsan north of Jakalla and Jikutlar fief is located over a 100 tsan further north than that. Which places it approximately where I have drawn it. I'm not sure if that is what was intended as it is stated as being within the Mssuma river delta, which it is not. If it were located two hexes north I think it would be but even though a hex is 100 tsan across, that is not the same as being a full 200 tsan to the North!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Great Crossbows, Batman!

Plastic Ballista by Eccentric Miniatures (partially built).

One of the great finds I came away from "Fall In!" with was a couple of packages of Eccentric Miniatures' "Great Crossbows". (Thanks, Bill, for pointing them out to me!)

These are plastic kits, sold 2 to a pack for $10 US.

I've started putting one together and have posed it with some of our Serqu figures. As you can see, it scales quite well with our stuff. Technically we don't have any artillery crew figures yet but I think the Serqu figures shown have possibilities. The figures are the three spear poses plus one of the archer poses. My idea is to leave off the plumes (and probably fill in the little dimple at the back of the helm). The plan with the archer figure is to cut away his bow and substitute a bolt from one of the sprues in the kit. He has a quiver of arrows - which is separate - though the straps are present. I think I am up to sculpting a replacement quiver using more of those loose bolts from the sprue. 

I asked at the stand about the possibilities of catapults, and they said that a Trebuchet was being worked on. If they do that, then hopefully and onager or mangonel of some sort will follow. And I've mentioned siege engines to them as well - battering rams and towers, and the like. The kit goes together easily with very little fuss. I used GW's "thin" glue to fix the parts together. The bases are 50mm MDF from Gale Force Nine (bought "by the pint" at a previous convention.)

The scale is right. The price is right. What more can one ask for?

Saturday, November 15, 2014


Map by John Till (w. Rachel Kronick) based upon Professor Barker's original.

John Till has started a series of posts about Thráya over on his Fate of Tékumel Blog

I've inserted into the map I'm making and scaled it - somewhat arbitrarily - so that the distance between the two end towers of the south wall was 3 kilometers. This seems to look OK next to the other cities I've inserted. When I checked the width of the river the narrowest section comes in at around 50 meters, which I think is in keeping with the comments Professor Barker made about the Ranánga river on the Blue Room mailing list. 

And today I was flipping through my copy of the Deeds Ever-Glorious (that is, the histories of the Tsolyáni legions, available from - and well worth the price!) I discovered an interesting reference under the Legion of Chegárra, the Hero-King. 

Actually, I think Thráya is mentioned several times throughout the histories. That book truely is a "must have" for Tékumel fans. There is loads of non-military information included and I found it gives a good insight into how things "work" in Tsolyánu.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Métlan and Jáyo, in more detail...

Excerpt from digital mapping project and detail sketch.

Métlan and Jáyo

1)      The sákbe road running north to Usenánu. There is some question as to which side of the road the high side should be on. The road is fairly centrally located within the empire so facing a closest border becomes somewhat of a toss up. If the low side were closer to the river it might make river traffic more accessible. That is to say, loading things onto and off of the road. But then why not do that at one of the major centers on the river, and if coming from the hinterland why not cross under or through the road at some tower gate and load directly onto barges? Myself I think it more likely that there would be crossing points to allow this and river villages located at the popular spots to facilitate this traffic. A better argument is that if the high side faces east then it will provide more shade to travellers for a longer part of the morning thus easing their journey. For this reason I favour the high side of the road facing the river.
2)      The sákbe road head. Wherever travellers are able to join the road there must be long ramps to accommodate the chlén carts and litters. The slope of these ramps would probably be no steeper than the wheelchair ramps of today. The road head is where the road ends and ramps provide access to ground level. Typically there is a tower or fortress guarding access to the road beyond the ramps.
3)      Road Head village. A squalid village filled with cheap vendors and whores seeking to make money from the travellers. The clan houses of the ferrymen would be located here.
4)      Small local villages. These villages are generally poor and pretty squalid. The villagers fish and grow crops on the flood plain between the floods. The deposits of sediment laid down during the floods provides them with fertile soil and they get good yields but are poor none-the-less.
5)      The causeway. This is a very low stone causeway that runs from the edge of the typical high flood to the rivers edge. On the north side it runs right the way to the town gate, but on the south side it just runs across to the main river channel. The causeway mimics the structure of the sákbe road with three different levels but each level is only 2 inches (50mm) taller than the next lower level. This makes the causeway 6 inches (150mm) high at its tallest edge, which is that facing upstream. The width of the causeway is the same as the sákbe road. On the south side there are a year round ferries that cross the main river channel, but on the north side there are only ferries during the flood season.
6)      The Foreigner’s Quarter of Métlan is outside the town walls. There are small enclaves spread out over the south part of the island. There is a small Ahoggyá community near the southern tip. A few dilapidated huts surrounded by a low stockade. The few Ahoggyá who live here year round are mostly fishermen. A few also hire out to caravans or boats.
7)      The Páchi Léi enclave is in the wooded center of the island. It currently consists of a single member who has a good reputation as a doctor.
8)      There is a Swamp Folk enclave right at the rivers edge, on huts built up on stilts above the water. They work as fishermen and on the boats.
9)      The Shén enclave is perhaps the most numerous. They live in a series of huts at the end of the dockyards section of the town where most of them work as labourers. All are from the main Shényu egg-group and the police keep a watch full eye when other parties of Shén pass through, and also that they keep their distance from the Ahoggyá.
10)  The Pé Chói enclave is in the woods next to the Páchi Léi. They are few in number and generally are in imperial or temple service in the town. They avoid the river as much as possible.
11)  Another small human village, this one mostly home to clans involved in the docks, shipping or transport in general.
12)  The dockyards. Always busy with river traffic. Many caravans coming from districts to the east and west just transit by chlén cart as far as here and then switch to barges to travel up or down river at a faster rate.
13)  Near the town wall is that part of the Foreigner’s Quarter occupied by humans, and those few other races that don’t want to mingle with their own kind for whatever reason.
14)  Ferry routes across the main river channel. A number of competing clans run ferries across the river. These can range from large barges and boats to smaller craft that carry only a few persons at a time.
15)  Police and Naval docks. Home to the local River Police and occasional vessels of the Imperial Navy.
16)  Legion Fortress. A small fortress on the crag at the north end of the island. Has barracks than can accommodate several cohorts of troops but currently very sparsely garrisoned by the River Police and two imperial legions. The Legion of Mirkitáni, Hero of Victories, often has a contingent posted here, as does the Squadrons of Tlanéno the Steersman.
17)  The town of Métlan itself. A small walled Tsolyáni town on an island of the same name in the Mssúma river.  In some ways twinned with a smaller town of Jáyo on the south bank of the river opposite in much the same way that Buda and Pest in Hungary were formerly separate communities. Métlan is part of the province of Urusái. The town has a moderately sized temple to Avánthe and her cohort Dilinála and smaller temples to the other Gods of Stability, but only shrines devoted to the Lords and Ladies of Change.
18)  Temporary docks for Police and Naval vessels. The main Mssúma river channel often changes its course over time but has consistently kept the same bed were it flows by Métlan island. This means the island docks are of a more permanent construction than those on the south shore which have to shift position as the river floods. Not often used there is usually a sentry and there is a path that runners and patrols take to get to the town of Jáyo.
19)  Temporary public docks. Similar to the official docks on the east side of the causeway, these are designed to adjust to the height of the river. Dirt paths lead from the docks to the town proper.
20)  The Hirilákte Arena. Shared between the two towns of Métlan and Jáyo, it is not a proper arena at all, but rather is a circular array of stout posts driven into the riverbed and protruding a few feet above high water level. These delineate the area used for the events which are staged on a variety of barges and other boats as deemed appropriate. Spectators view the events from other boats or barges that are rowed over and anchored in place or tied up to the posts. There are also some platforms on tall stilts located at the typical low water mark on which are set up tents from which the arena referees and imperial representatives and their guests view the matches.  There is a considerable rivalry between the two towns and also between the temples of the two towns.  Many matches pit the two against each other, while other matches are “neutral” in nature.
21)   The Tower of Everlasting Regret – Imperial prison for the province of Jakásha. Along with the southern sákbe road, forms the main part of Jáyo’s defences.
22)   The sákbe road head. In this case the road runs into the base of the Tower of Everlasting Regret forming the eastern side of Jáyo’s town wall. The actual ramps that lead down into the town a placed just short of the road end. There is a gate that leads through the wall leading to a secondary road that heads east into the countryside.
23)  The southbound sákbe road that leads to Pála Jakálla or Jakálla itself. This road faces east providing morning shade for travellers.
24)  The town of Jáyo. Smaller than Métlan, it has few defences, relying upon the sákbe road for the most part. A low wall without any defensive towers covers the south, stretching from the road to the river bank. Similar to Métlan the so-called foreigner’s quarter is outside this southern wall. It is enclosed only by an earthen dyke which is largely overgrown with grasses and shrubs. Jáyo has large temples to Dlamélish and Hriháyal, smaller temples to the other deities of change and only shrines to the Gods of Stability and their cohorts.
25)   The North Channel fills first as the river begins to swell at the start of the flood season and stays longest when the riverbed begins to dry out. It is not very deep but small boats and flat-bottomed craft can be used on it. The Ahoggyá generally just wade across often going underwater for long stretches without any apparent concern.
26)  These dotted regions are those areas of riverbed that dry out during the dry season but are often under water during the floods. The actual extent of the flooding varies from year to year. As stated in (4) above, the soil is very fertile and provides good crops all along the river.
27)  These lines mark the approximate high flood mark of the river. The actual flood level varies from year to year and is often below this line but is also occasionally above the line as well. In such times the streets of Jáyo may be flooded, while Métlan stands high and dry on its outcrop in the middle of the river.
28)  The main course of the Mssúma river. The depth varies but deepest parts of the channel tend to be on the north and west sides nearest Métlan.

29)  This last non-human enclave is a small population of Pygmy Folk who have burrows in the hillside. The actual population is not known but as few are generally seen – or rather, few recognizable individuals are seen – it is thought to be low. The Tsolyáni have no knowledge of the extent of the burrow complex. 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Jacques Majorelle - Orientalist or Tékumelist?

Looking south across the Ranánga river?

Scenes from the Kráa Hills?

Jacques Majorelle was a French painter who spent a lot of his time in Morocco. I stumbled on one of his paintings on a facebook page and a quick google search later had pulled up the pictures above. It struck me that the flat-topped buildings in the scenes are very like the descriptions given of Tsolyáni clanhouses.

I think he would qualify as an Orientalist painter, though he is - I think - later than those usually put in that category. A google search on Orientalism or Orientalist is worth doing!

The Mssúma river? 

Perhaps there should be more vegetation along the shores, but still the overall character of the river is pretty close: broad and slow flowing. True, the water should be more yellow, laden with silt but by the same token, the blue skies are also wrong, as Tékumel's skies are golden (some of the paintings get that right.)

Did you know "Missúm" means "death" in Tsolyáni, and that the Mssúma river is often also spelled "Missúma"? And that yellow is the colour associated with Lord Belkánu, one of the Tsolyáni "Gods of Stability" and the Lord of the Excellent Dead? Hmm...