Choice of the Petal Throne: Rise to glory on the battlefields of Tékumel™!

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We’re proud to announce that Choice of the Petal Throne, the latest in our popular “Choice of Games” line of multiple-choice interactive-fiction games, is now available for Steam, iOS, Android, and Kindle Fire. It’s 25% off during launch week.

In the Empire of the Petal Throne™, will you find glory, or a knife in your back?

“Choice of the Petal Throne” is a 124,000-word interactive fantasy novel by Danielle Goudeau, where your choices control the story. It’s entirely text-based–without graphics or sound effects–and fueled by the vast, unstoppable power of your imagination.

M.A.R. Barker’s world of Tékumel™ is a fantasy universe like no other, where South American, Middle Eastern, and Indian cultures collide. The princes and princesses of the Tsolyáni empire vie for their father’s mystical Petal Throne, tearing the nation apart with civil war and political intrigues.

As a captain in one of their armies, will you play as male or female, gay straight or bi? A brave and forthright soldier, a hedonistic intriguer with a heart of gold, or scheming double agent?

(Tékumel™ and Empire of the Petal Throne™ are trademarks of M.A.R. Barker and are used with permission of the Tékumel Foundation. For additional information, please visit http://www.tekumelfoundation.org.)

Why Tékumel?

Author Danielle Goudeau explains,

Tékumel is an amazing setting that encapsulates both the history and the future of table-top gaming. Published in 1975, it blends sword and sorcery, dungeon crawls, war gaming, and meticulous detail with a non-Eurocentric setting, alternative sexuality, and a role for women that manages to be empowering while not blithely ignoring historical reality. Because of this, it lies at the intersection of both the Old School Renaissance movement, and the call for more diversity in gaming.

There is so much to love here. The human society, drawn from India and South America, eschews the standard rugged-individualism of most adventuring parties for a world in which every PC is caught in a web of obligations between their family, their clan, their temple, and their career. The morality springs from an honest exploration of what it would be like for humans to live in a world where incomprehensible omnipotent gods interfered in daily life. The alien races are truly alien, not just humans with some features changed.

What I love most, though, is that this game, the first published RPG setting, has so much of what I see people calling for in modern games. Not just that the PCs all have black hair and brown skin and don’t live in Ye Olde Europe. Homosexuality and bisexuality are discussed openly in the books and accepted within the cultures, as is polyamory. The role of women, is in my opinion, portrayed brilliantly, with women pressured into traditional family roles, but legally allowed to declare themselves the equals of men. This lets me play the female general, governor, or bad-ass scholar-priestess, while showcasing the more rigid gender roles in historical societies.

For all these reasons, and because any game with a table discussing regional variations in architecture is just awesome, take time this year, on the 40th anniversary of its publication to play some Tékumel. Find a game at your local convention, or buy a source-book and run a session for your friends. Play it using Béthorm or Empire of the Petal Throne or your rules-light system of choice. See where our roots are as a hobby and think about where we’re going.

We need your support to continue delivering our games on Steam. Our goal is to release our entire catalog of interactive novels on Steam. Based on the extraordinary performance of Choice of Robots and The Hero of Kendrickstone, both which made it onto Steam’s front page this year, Valve has allowed us to ship a handful of additional games. We’ll need to continue to deliver outstanding results to prove that interactive fiction can be successful on Steam.

We’re asking all of our fans to follow us on Steam. Even if you don’t use Steam that much, it will be a big help if you sign up to follow us there, because the more followers we get, the better visibility we get on Steam’s curator list. (Our goal is to hit 3,000 followers for our Steam curation page; we’re about 40% the way there as I write this!)

When you follow us, you’ll see our games and our recommended games right on your Steam home page. It’s free, and it’s a big help to us, so follow us today!

We hope you enjoy playing Choice of the Petal Throne. We encourage you to tell your friends about it, and recommend the game on StumbleUpon, Facebook, Twitter, and other sites. Don’t forget: our initial download rate determines our store ranking. The more times you download in the first week, the better our games will rank.

9 Likes

I’ve just finished it for the first time.
I always buy every game that comes out be it Hosted or “official” one. This one really caught my attention because of the setting and because the story was about a soldier rising through the ranks of an army. I’m sucker for these kinds of games and I love Sabres Of Infinity saga, Choice of Broadsides and the upcoming Choice Of Rebels and Guenevere.
This one started of very promising but then something happened. As if the author was originally planning something on a much grander scheme but couldn’t finish it on time and decided to cut it drastically. The second half felt very, very, very rushed. To the point where I even got a feeling that some scenes are missing completely. By the end, the plot almost stopped making sense to me. It may be that I rushed through the game too quickly (I’m a fast reader) but I haven’t failed in anything in the game and got probably the best possible ending for my path. And the ending wasn’t even satisfying! It very quickly summarized some of the events after the main plot and ended with something similar to “but your battle continues!” . There is almost no climax, no grander conflict resolved, nothing.

I was worried that the 124,000-word length was quite not enough for such story but thought that it will probably have less paths…which I don’t mind if the story is immersive and well-written. Really disappointing for me. Even more when I consider other great hosted games that gave me much more for the same amount of money.
It’s not a bad game…but I guess my expectation were too high.

10 Likes

I quite enjoyed it. I’m a complete novice to this universe so the events at the end really made me feel like I was dipping my toes into an ocean of things I didn’t know about. Had quite a mixed success in choices too, and a bitter-sweet ending so definitely tempted to play again.

Where do we send bug issues with Petal Throne? (Well not so much a bug there’s a couple of places with formatting problems caused by inadequate line_breaks/carriage returns.)

support@choiceofgames

1 Like

I could just imagine all the chopped-up attempts at pronouncing all the terms and names in this story.

On another note, I haven’t bought the full game (yet), but I still thoroughly enjoyed the section that I have played. I also think the status of women in this world is unique considering the setting.

Like @WilliamFiedler, I thought the second half or so of the game felt rather rushed and unfinished, and also like @Zanite, I didn’t feel like I had the context to understand what was going on at the end. It’s a very interesting setting though, and I liked the game overall.

Those saying you didn’t understand the second half… did you have a specific question about what was happening? Or some specific example of something confusing? (I invite you to use [spoiler] tags for this.)

Which ending did you get? (Please use [spoiler] tags, naturally.)

It was the whole other planes and advanced tech, like the ‘demon’ who you can talk to at the end. Is that a big thing in the source material? I did have a good time though, I love playing games in different cultures.

That sounds like a shame.

i’ve played the game a few times now, and found it well worth the money. well written, set in an interesting world, i would love to have more stories set in this world, possibly around other events with new characters.

For one, when I tried to do the spell written on the back of the ‘demon’ it exploded and the next thing I know I’m in the room with the artifact like I didn’t just get bitchslapped with shrapnel. Upon other playthroughs I saw that was what happened next anyway, but there was no transition after the explosion, so it was really confusing.

I’ve just bought my copy one Android, rated it a 5, and shared it on Google +. I’m reading Shadow Horror first, but I’ll come back with my impressions after I’ve finished this. It sounds really good!

It was interesting. Seemed a bit schizophrenic. The first half was like a standard rise to power story, but then the second half was a dungeon crawl. No idea of the stakes or grander goals of the characters until the last two minutes. The pacing was real wonky.

A lot of it suffered from working in an established setting. The author clearly enjoys the setting, so rather than focus on only what we need for the story there were a ton of details thrown in which might be part of the larger world but we never see again. We get barraged with names and places that never appear; they’re just setting details. Then things that should be important are glossed over, lumped in with everything else. We’re fighting barbarians, but then suddenly we jump forward into a civil war between who knows and who cares. Later on both sides are completely indistinguishable, I don’t have any idea who’s fighting who or why. But I’ve read a thousand pages of family organization that never came up again.

And Sam surely you should read it before you rate it?

3 Likes

I’m still debating on getting this, opinions thus far seem to be evenly distributed on whether it’s good or not.

sorry for the late reply.

I got the ending where everyone except Sáyi lived, my blood feud with the family of the other captain was resolved through the Emperor and I got a promotion.

Others have already said the problems with the whole treasure hunt part…it felt out of place to me and the pacing was really weird and confusing. I wouldn’t mind playing dungeon crawler but it wasn’t something I expected when I bought the game. It wasn’t something I expected even after 30 minutes of playing the actual thing :smiley:

I don’t want to say anything negative about the game. I really don’t. I did enjoy it. It has one of the sugariest happy endings of any choice game and I liked that a lot. There’s moments where it really shines…

@Dfabulich I’ve been writing and rewriting up a response to your question, even though it wasn’t addressed to me. I’ve actually a lot to say on the subject, but I really don’t want to say anything too negative about the game.

I’m going to keep it short here, but I can easily go into more depth. (I’d also a lot of suggestions for fixing the problems, I cut those out too.)

For me what I found confusing. I found the names, titles, and a lot of the world terminology really strange and confusing. I’ve played the game enough times now that it’s less of an issue than it was.

I also found the transition to the underground dungeon-crawl scene really abrupt. I found that dungeon crawl a jarring contrast to the rest of the game, as well as not understanding my motivations for being there, other than I’d been ordered. And the various monsters inside were alien, and I think the others have described the problems there.

I did still enjoy the game.

2 Likes

I have a monster reply!

First, thanks to all of you who bought and played the game, even if it wasn’t your cup of tea, or you found flaws. Some of the things pointed out here I sort of knew of and accept as limitations of my first project, and others I have been really surprised by. Where there are problems that detract from the game experience, I hope they don’t nullify the fun.

Please do give us feedback on CotPT, even negative feedback. If you think you found an actual bug, send it to support@choiceofgames as well, so I can get to work fixing it and push an update. If you have things you don’t want to say here, like @FairyGodfeather mentioned, you can PM me. I really do appreciate the feedback, both because I want to make the reasonable fixes I can to this game, and I want to improve what I write in the future.

On to specifics:

@WilliamFiedler There aren’t any missing scenes, and I didn’t cut the game or rush the end. Which is to say, there’s not really an excuse for why it is the way it is, other than that I chose to write it that way. In terms of ease, I did try to put a lot of effort into the fail text, and sort of imagined that people might consciously choose sub-optimal strategies for their build. I think the game is actually more interesting if you fail in some places. Clearly I need to work on how I gamify any future interactive novels I write.

@RagEgnite The accents can be used to get a pretty good approximation of the pronunciation of the words. Tsolyáni is a ConLang like Elven in Tolkien, and there’s a full dictionary for it, etc. I really struggled with the inclusion of language in this, and even thought of putting in the Tsolyáni words as variables, and letting the player choose whether to see them or an English equivalent. In the end though, after talking with Choice of Games, we decided that because there aren’t direct cognates to most of them, it really changed the feel of the game. The huge vocabulary is one of the biggest “barriers to entry” for Tékumel as a setting, and I’ll give some more thought to how I could make that easier to deal with.

@Sneaks @Zanite The Tékumel setting is very pulp and 70s, and part of that is that it is a sci-fi fantasy, but most of the people living there are unaware of the sci-fi aspects. The PCs stumbling into technological ruins and not understanding them is a staple of the genre. I tried to write the last section in a way to reflect this, where everything seemed confusing and alien. If you want more explicit info about what was going on, I can let you know.

@Sneaks The conditional if for the explosion exists to abruptly. I’ll fix this when we fix bugs. Thanks for pointing it out.

@FairyGodfeather As I said above, please PM me with your feedback. Re: language, see above. I find your comment on motivation really interesting, and will think about how to deal with that. A huge part of Tsolyáni society is “place,” or sort of doing what you’re told within a rigid social hierarchy. I tried to convey that by having the PC sent on a mission they had no choice about to get an artifact they didn’t understand, and then not be told what it’ll be used for. I wanted to convey both that heroism in large wars often leads to small, but not decisive victories, and also of that social expectation for obedience. My favorite ending to the game is where you run away with Wave. I think what I did instead of that, or maybe in addition to, was emotionally distance you from your avatar. Thanks for the insight.

@Hell_Satan I’m glad you enjoyed the polyamory ending. As one of my friends mentioned in a blog post the other day, the first book “Man of Gold,” ends with the main character torn between the classic “good” girl and “bad” girl, and then an Imperial Prince reminds him that they are a poly-amorous society and he just marries them both.

OK, I’ll end on a lighter note with some trivia:

The statue in the cover is Fáishan “The Pinnacle of Victory” who sort of fulfills the cultural role of Nike, but is a female aspect of the male god Karakán.

A cool meta part of Tékumel is that the world has a “tree of time” where you can travel to alternate realities where things are a little different. The fans have made a conceit of this, that the cannon material is “Tékumel prime” and then each person’s fan work or table-top game or what have you are alternate realities. I found this amusing in the context of a Choice of Game in that every time someone plays the game they are spinning off a new reality for this captain by shifting small variables in his/her fate.

2 Likes

@fantom

It’s definitely worth your time. Despite my criticisms I really enjoyed it.

@Daniellesque

I figured going in that I wouldn’t quite get everything in a game where the setting is both fully fleshed out and not self contained. I was suitably bewildered at the genre shift, but I couldn’t say it was unpleasant. There was a point around where we meet the cleaning ‘demon’ where I thought that we all must be mutants living in the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust or something and that’s why we have psychic powers and giant beetles.

One thing I was wondering about was the rarity of metal. Is it because it’s a world once ruled by advanced civilization(s) and the ore has all been mined out, or at least the stuff that they can access via primitive mining techniques?

And if you don’t mind my asking, why on earth is a cleaning robot using an old-fashioned broom? Though I have to say ganking the poor guy for his broom so I could turn it into a spear was one of the funniest moments in a CoG game to date.