Thanks to a sale at DriveThruRPG, I finally picked up Empire of the Petal Throne (1975) and read my first Tékumel sourcebook. I've heard about Tekumel for years, including reading some tantilising details in Gary Alan Fine's study of gaming, Shared Fantasy.
Upon opening Empire of the Petal Throne, the first thing to strikes the reader is this lavish opening praise from Gary Gygax, who, as far as I can understand, wasn't often all that glowing in his adoration of stuff:
It is a great privilege to be given the task of writing the prefatory remarks to Professor Barker's tremendous creation Empire of the Petal Throne. It is also something which I approach with considerable reservation, for what can I tell you about this incredible labor that its author and the game components haven't already said far better than I possible [sic] can? So I simply state that it is the most beautifully done fantasy game ever created. It is difficult for me to envision the possibility of any rival being created in the future. Comparisons are often misleading, but carefully drawn ones can be helpful and informative. Therefore, I must the reader to view the world of Tékumel in comparison with J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth. A study of the background detail and society of each will force the reader to the conclusion that the former work is, if anything, at least as painstakingly and lovingly detailed as that of the acknowledged master of the fantasy world in toto. J.R.R. Tolkien did not, of course, ever imagine his Middle Earth as a vehicle for the play of fantasy games - much to the loss of his myriads of devotees. But Professor Barker has neither had the opportunity to introduce and familiarise his Tékumel by means of popular works of fiction.
I am, within the confines of 1975 rules (and layout) design, rather impressed by the world - it is Weirder than I expected, especially in the monster design, but also simultaneously more Burroughsian (Barsoomian?) than I would've thought.
Has anyone read more of the sourcebooks? Or, even better, have any of you played in this world? Please share!