Friday, 31 July 2020

Building a Reality

The project I have been doing with Eldritch Foundry has its World Anvil page up and running. Don't know if they have an RSS or how you follow it, but this breakdown of how and why I designed the reality the way I did should be on there and I thought I would give it to you also for something to read over the weekend.

> What was Esh?

Gino Severini, 1912, Dynamic Hieroglyphic of the Bal Tabarin

I imagine Esh at its height as a kind of multiversal super-civilisation. Think of somewhere a little like Planescape plus Marvel Universe plus Spelljammer plus Ian M. Banks Culture novels plus Star Trek, plus anything else you can think of. All of the tropes and technologies of any science fiction or fantasy cosmos were present and all would be utilised to their finest and highest extent to produce a reality of freedom and meaning.

Esh was probably not a reality, or a 'realm' without evil, opponents or challenge, neither was it a static, unchanging place, but it was somewhere where 'good', of some form, usually, probably won, and where there was always the opportunity for redemption, creation and adventure.

Realms, Worlds, Dimensions and Gates.

Esh was made up of planets, rings, super-ships and dyson-spheres, like a sci-fi universe, but it also included magical realms, dimensional planes, time-travel, parallel realities, worlds inside the dreams of gods, virtual sumulated worlds, pocket-dimensions like the Tardis and simply any and everything else that can reasonably be imagined.

Becuse of their enormous difference in nature, most of these were referred to as 'Realms', meaning a reasonably coherent chunk of space and time where things work by the same rules.

The Optimates

We know relatively little about Esh as its fall and destruction set the scene for the creation of Uud, but one thing we can suppose is the existence of beings called 'Optimates'. We can think of these as hyper-powered or exceptional individual beings of various kinds. A Culture 'Mind' from an Ian M. Banks book could be considered an Optimate, as could Dr Strange, Superman or the Archangel Gabriel.

These Optimates watched over the varied realms of Esh. 'Watched over' was intended to mean, not that they directly ruled any planet or dimension, but that they kept it safe, and as separate as it generally wanted to be from the meta-realm of Esh.

So, if a hyperdimensional predator wants to feed off the life essence of a world, or if a sci-fi megacorp wants to invade a realm with only medieval technology to colonise it, or if a super-magician like Sauron or super-being like Professor X decides to try to build a multiversal empire of their own, the Optimates were meant to stop them.

Generally, the Optimates were meant to protect 'Realms' from things coming from outside that realm, not from creatures or agents from within. Though, since they had a great ability to set their own boundaries, its likely some Optimates did not quite keep to that mission exactly.

Esh fell. Uud is what remains.

The peoples of Uud know very little about what Esh was like, but in the Waste-lands, which includes Zoiterra and Blackwater, they do at least know that Esh existed at one point, though they have quite different legends about what it was.

> What is Uud?

There are eventually meant to be multiple different 'layers' or 'versions' of Uud, including a fantasy realm, a Steampunk realm and a science-fiction realm.

Right now, only the fantasy realm has been worked out to any depth, and only a few of the lands within it have been described.

So far I have been calling this Fantasy Realm 'The Waste Land'.

The Waste Land

Russ Nicholson

From the perspective of the people in it, this is a flat, caustic plain of grey ruined stone, oceans of ash, salt flats, memory stealing rain and other awful, largely grey and colourless things.

So far as they know, this is what remains of Esh. All of it. It was leached of meaning, identity, memory and structure by Yggsrathaal and reduced to this horrible fractured plain.

There are various nations adrift in the Waste Land, places where people and culture might survive, so far we only know about two of these, Blackwater and Zoiterra.

Neither of these places really know much about each other, they have perhaps a few fractured legends but little else to confirm that.

As well as that; exactly how the Waste functions, differs slightly around each Realm. Blackwater and Zoiterra are both Islands of meaning and identity in a formless waste, so the way they perceive both it and themselves does leak out somewhat.


By Skullfungus
(all of these have their own descriptions, which will hopefully be linked through the image)

Blackwater is the first place imagined in any depth for Uud and was created specifically in order to host most of the common and well-loved fantasy races, places and adventure types.

Within its own history, Blackwater was created, or preserved, on or around the end of the Fall of Esh as a somewhat stable and self-supporting realm in the growing Waste.

Two things keep Blackwater stable and drive back the Waste.

Towards its Eastern end are the Mountains of Reality, giant eruptions of stone much larger and wilder than any mountain range on earth. The culture of these mountains is protected by the Gloom Queens, who you can read about in their own entry, but the entropic quality of the Waste is driven back somehow by the dense stone of the mountains themselves.

Some legends say the Mountains of Reality were created by a kind of 'folding over' or different mountain rages from different realms, making them somehow 'hyper-real'. Others say the Mountains are the body of the dead God Ark, a primal creator God defeated by Yggsrathaal.

However it works, the Mountains keep back the Waste to a large degree. They provide one of the few sources of heavy metals and minerals in the Waste-Lands (the rest were corroded by Yggsrathaal and their lack keeps technology expensive and low-level). The rivers which run from the mountains carry waters stained black by their eroded stone, the 'Black Waters' which give the continent its name, and these waters also seem to hold back or repress the Waste and its creatures.

Almost all the river systems of Blackwater run East-West, to an unnatural degree, and this is assumed to be due to ancient geo-engineering during Blackwaters creation.

The second, western portion of Blackwater is held in place by its Cities. This whole area, called 'The Grey Cities', is based around crazed, ancient, Cyclopean megastructures which seem to emanate, or re-assert, Reality itself. 

The memory-stealing rains of the Waste lose their powers around the structures and the creatures of the Waste creatures don't like getting close to them.

Around these Megastructures have grown up the Cities themselves, growing now for 5,000 years, most of them know little of how or why the structures work, but they do know that they are sacred.

Within the Megastructures are the Imperial Lines who perform the rituals, magic and actions which keep the structures working. These are largely descended from the Optimates of Esh.

During the Fall, some of the surviving Optimates came to Blackwater and built the cities while some other force or group, possibly the last Deists or Prophets of Esh, created the Mountains of Reality.

With them came refugees from every realm, reality and world of Esh, all mixed together, and it is from them that the current population descends.


Zoiterra is quite different and was imagined to be a realm or nation, also within the Waste, (so in theory you could walk from Blackwater to Zoiterra, if nothing killed you), but distant from Blackwater.

Zoiterra was created to be a home for the various Animal-People of Dungeons and Dragons.

While Blackwater is very 'Classic Fantasy' with Elves, Dwarves etc, Zoiterra has none of these races, and while Blackwater works very much like a normal continent, with rivers, mountains mines etc, Zoiterra is pretty weird.

As a Realm it exists as ten great nations riding on the back of ten great nation-beasts. 

I never really defined exactly how big each beast is, but I imagined the average to be about the square miles of the United Kingdon mainland. So Zoiterra as a whole is about the size of Europe or the U.S. (Blackwater is I think roughly the size of the U.S.).

While the peoples of Blackwater are permanently at war with Yggsrathaal (in fact this mutual threat and hatred is part of what binds them together) those of Zoiterra are more just, avoiding her notice. (Though they must still suffer through her attacks).

In Blackwater 'Humanity' is defined largely by the majority group; Somon (standard humans), and by the similarity of Aeth, Deoth and other types. The decision on who is and is not human is a political and social one and can be addressed a little bit differently in each polity. To not be part of 'Greater Humanity' is bad, though the line does move, it is still a hard line.

In Zoiterra there is no majority form and, though its peoples all look very very different to each other, it’s clear to them that they are all conscious beings, so definitions and identities work differently there.

Each Zoiterran culture is based on one particular Nation Beast and each Beast is considered to be following a particular Virtue. It is these Virtues which define legitimacy and personhood in Zoiterran culture.

(Not that Zoiterran culture is inherently less prejudiced or more fair that others, only that it works differently. Most Nation-Beasts have majroty ethic/type populations and these almost always wield political power. The Nation-Beasts also differ in how, and how much, they incorporate and allow beings dissimilar to them.)

Most Zoiterran Virtues, and the cultures which spring from them, are based roughly around Daoist concepts. This is intended to fit with Zoiterras fluid and subtle nature. Though there are also pseudo-Bhuddist, Hindu, Confucian and Frog-Fascist cultures.

> Will there be more Realms in the Waste-Land?

I hope so. It will depend on what creatures, beings and cultures are added to the 'Fantasy World' makeup of Uud. 

So far I have vague ideas for continents or Realms for 'Monsters' and Undead, and possibly some kind of Greek-influenced place.

I hope to make them all as different in concept and execution as Blackwater and Marginalia. Each fragment of Esh will have found some particular way to survive and maintain itself, depending on its own nature.

> Where is everything in the Waste-Lands?

Right now its imagined that the continents 'move'. In Blackwaters case it would grind via something like continental drift, and Zoiterra of course, is moving all the time in its eternal escape from Yggsrathaals attention.

My hope is that, in play, people will treat the Waste-Land as largely modular, so continents and realms can essentially be 'picked up' and moved around on the map according to the desires of the game creators.

So if someone wants to tell a story like; "What if Oum, the Black Turtle, carrying the cat-race of Quitt, should crash into the Grey Cities, what would happen?" Then they can simply arrange that to happen.

All of Zoiterra is made like this, with the animals continually racing and changing places and locations, so that each game creator can arrange the pieces of that realm however they wish, so that different places and cultures can be close, in easy contact, or separated.

As more realms are added to the Waste-Land, I would like to try to keep this up so taht ultimately, the Waste-Land became a kind of jigsaw puzzle or lego-set of fantasy ideas, different for each game and story.

> What about 'Sci-Fi' Uud and 'Steampunk' Uud?

So far these realities, and the way they relate to Waste-Lands Uud, have not been deeply worked out.

The core concept for 'Steam Punk Uud' is that its been 20,000 to 25,000 years since the fall of Esh. Uud is made up of a kind of bubble of gas around a giant solar system. Intelligent beings inhabit multiple planets and moons. They know little of each other but near simultaneous discovery of similar technology means they develop the ability to explore their giant bubble at about the same time. Their ships are concieved of as being something like iron cylanders or giant wheels. Society is at a pseudo-victorian state and nations and huge corporations are a big deal. Magic is less powerful than in the Waste-Lands and has been de-prioratised, with different forms being predominant. The old strange hyper-tech of Esh is mostly gone or lost, but Sophonts (intelligent self-aware beings)  have a much better and controlled understanding of their own technology. Yggsrathaals 'Grey Waste' still exists, but only as a distance presence on the borders of the big bubble. Many cultures don't even know about her, regarding her as a legend.

'Sci-Fi Uud' takes place roughly 55,000 years since the fall of Esh. No-one knows anything about Esh at all, or about the origins of the spacefaring species. There's quite a bit more but I will save that for later.

> Are these future versions of 'Waste-Lands' Uud or what?

Honestly I don't yet know. My initial idea was that the fall of Esh "fractured" reality into different streams in which time ran at relatively different speeds.

The closest and the fastest running would be Fantasy Uud, the closest to the Vespershard, where Yggsrathaal was most powerful but where magic was also very powerful.

In the different 'time streams' more and more time would have passed since the fall, giving technology more time to develop. Magic would be less powerful, and so would Yggsrathaal, though she would still be a serious, ultimate and long-term threat.

> Things Outside 'Reality', 

the Vespershard, the Seraphormer and Marginalia

There are some places and Realms either outside reality, or adjacent to it in some fundamental way. I will describe these in turn.

The Vespershard

In itself, the Vespershard is pretty simple. Not unlike Borges 'Aleph' or the Marvel Universes M'Kraan crystal, its a giant hidden crystal which simultaneously reflects, encapsulates and combines every version of the Udd-verse. A hidden Axis-Mundi or fulcrum of reality which sustains and preserves what is left of causality.

This reasoning behind it is more interesting.

Essentially I didn't want to create a fantasy world where there was only one way it could be and people had to wait around for the company in charge to validate things for them to be "real".

I think that puts a fan community and a company in a negative feedback loop. It’s always easy to sell the nerdiest parts of the community More Details, as they think that’s what they want, but the relentless accumulation of detail makes the world impenetrable to newcomers, raises the lorekeeper mindset over other (and I think we do need that personality just not on its own) and trains people not to think or create for themselves, as they can always go to the company for answers and validation.

And since the company can charge them for that detail and that validation, its almost self-destructive for them not to do so. And that gradually trains the company and the fans to resent each other as they are feeding each others less-meaningful habits and thought patterns.

So the Vespershard is a piece of Uud which explicitly says that every person who plays a game or does fiction in Uud is reflected in the Vespershard, and that every one of those interpretations is valid, and that Uud as a whole, both as an imaginative creation in our world, and as an imagined reality, only persists due to all these different realities in the shard, so everyone who contributes to it is keeping it alive. Though they may be very separate versions of reality, they all show up in the Vespershard.

So whatever game or fan-fic, art, cosplay, whatever, shows up in the Vespershard and plays a part in keeping the Uud-Cosmos alive, both literally, as in if you don't engage with it, or use it, it dies, and diagetically, in the imagined world itself.

While the Vespershard does exist in Uud, beneath Phosphorfall, at the centre of the Wate-Lands, its not meant to be easy to access or even to discover that it exists. 

The Seraphormer

The idea behind the Seraphormer started with the conception of the 'Eldritch Founder' actually existing in the imagined world of Uud, and then slowly grew from there.

The Seraphormer is the Founders 'Soul Machine' and its conception is designed to give the impression of a near-divine technology, scraped together from the detritus of multiple layers of reality, combining magic and technology in order to perform a divine action; the creation of souls.

And of course, just as the Verspershard, looked at one way, is a kind of literalised metaphor for the recording of the lore of Uud and for its relationship with its fans, the Seraphormer is a literalisation of what Eldritch Foundry does, the combination of creating your own mini, having it printed out and delivered, and then incorporated into your own imaginative world. In doing this, you are essentially doing what the Eldritch Founder does, playing the 'role' of the Eldritch Founder before you play the role of your character.

The Seraphomer is imagined as existing in its own "pocket-realm", adjacent to, but outside any realm or layer of Uud.

Physically we can imagine this pocket realm as being roughly the size of Luna, earths moon, with a core about the size of a large city.

Almost the only living beings within the Seraphormer are various versions of the Eldritch Founder, though the Captains of the LicheJammer craft which bring Quileth into the Seraphormer are also present. The Captains are meant to be memory-wiped before being allowed to leave, meaning they do not know what the Seraphormer is, only that they must complete their mission and return. Since the LicheJammer Captains are assumed to have absolute control over their largely mindless undead crew, its assumed no one needs to bother memory-wiping them.

The Zone of the Speraphomer is physically non-existant in the space beyond it, its envelope is invisible to all senses and only the LichJammer Captains have the codes and knowledge to even find its apporximate location and to request access.

As well as that, the Delusion Engine of the Seraphormer infiltrates all of Uud, making it near-impossible for any self-aware being to even imagine that it could exist. Even Founders which leave the Seraphormer can lose any memories of it and not be able to return.

Nevertheless, there does seem to have been at least one incursion of some sort into the Seraphormer and the Founders security arrangements may be less perfect than they assume.

The Founder(s) within the Seraphormer are able to gain access to any 'layer' of Uud, and it seems they can even inject Souls into a variety of timestreams, suggesting that the Seraphormer is not completely fixed in time. Though if the Seraphormer had complete and free access to the time-stream, its mission would be a lot simpler, which suggests that either it is not a fully functioning time machine or that the presence or existence of Yggsrathaal somehow prevents this.

The means by which the Founders gain access to Uud seem to vary and few of them have been made clear, though it seems some combination of manipulating the strands of Marginalia, travel through the Vespershard and possible deep-future Sci-Fi hypertech.

Wherever they Seraphormer "is" in regards to Uud, it always seems to be hidden phsyically in some way, located in some lost and forgotten place, and it seems to have trouble interacting with or being close to a planetary surface, or the surface of the Waste-Land. It is a quasi-astronomical object, most akin to a hidden moon or shrouded space station.


The ultimate series of tubes.

Marginalia was conceived of as a 'connecting realm', a world which spread tendrils of itself to every land, layer, nation, realm and reality of Uud. 

If you need to get anywere in Uud, in theory, the strands of Marginalia can take you there.

Its closest inspiration is something like the 'Webway' of the Warhammer 40k universe, mixed with the 'Otherworld' of Celtic myth, actual Medieval Marginalia and NASA ideas about enclosed cylilndrical environments in space which maintain the illusion of gravity through centrifugal force.

Being inside any part of Margenalia is essentially like being inside a giant cylinder, with gravity equal around the diameter, like being inside a space-born cylinder ship which is rotating.

Rather than just one such tube, Margenalia is a gigantic sprawling, perhaps endless, maze or network. Some tubes are wide enough around to contain whole nations and others are only the size of manhole covers, or even smaller.

Portals or entries to Margenalia can theoretically be found all over Blackwater, Zoiterra, the Waste-Lands and anywhere else in Uud, perhaps even the Pale Courts of Yggsrathaal and the Seraphormer.

In practice, finding and using such a portal is immeasurably difficult. The peoples and cultures of Margenalia keep themselves very secret and obsessively guard any access to their realm.

Most cultures in the Waste-Lands do not even believe that Marginalia exists, assuming it to be simple a legend. Those that do know of it are aware that obsessively and systematically searching for it is unlikely to work. Some people just persistently 'happen across' the Realm, whether they wish to or not, while others will never find it.

In terms of world design, and game design, Marginalia provides the means to connect any imagined place to any other imagined place, temporarily or permanently, with rules or circumstances which can vary according to need or design.

It me

> A New-Age; or, "Why is everything so terrible?"

The whole basis of Uud is a world which starts out as pretty bad, but which you can change through play.

Again I'm trying to re-iterate that Uud is meant to be a world to be played in, to be brought to live through play and through interaction, and that the experience of play and of interaction, whether that be through fan fic, cosplay, art or whatever, is the essential purpose of the world.

So let me highlight two broad moral typse of fantasy reality.

The Grimdark, like Warhammer 40k, Berserk and maybe Dark Souls. This is a reality where everything is screwed and all people can do is resist that for as long as possible. It’s dark, moral choices are harsh and  largely the structure of the world makes the world a tragic one.

Then we have more classic Adventure worlds. This would be like most D&D worlds and like the Marvel Universe. There may be terrible threats and all kinds of apocalyptic events, but usually the good guys can win and a heroic effort will count for something in the end.

Uud, at all its levels and in every realm, especially in Blackwater, is meant to be a reality which is very, very dark, *but in which the players can change that*.

Again this feeds into every game, campaign and story being individually valid and an actual part of Uud.

Every adventure (in classic D&D anyway) starts with a small group of heroes. In Blackwater, they will be oppressed by the conditions of the world, faced on every side by the Waste of Yggsrathaal and be part of a slowly-decaying society which doesn't really believe that anything can change for the better.

The very nature of a classic set of D&D heroes, individuality, anti-authoritarianism, questing for adventure, taking on bad guys, amassing treasure, building a legend, pretty much everything that D&D characters do, specifically re-enforces and sustains exactly the forms of identity, specificity, character, hope, possibility and change which work against the power of Yggsrthaal.

The Waste is Grey, and empty, and drains everything of live and individuality. The world is like this, when the adventure begins.

But the heroes, through their actions and adventures, change the world, and shift it onto one with more colour, life, possibility and hope.

Diagetically, this is why the Eldritch Founder created them, and from our point of view, it is part of why we both run games and play in them.

So, to put it simply, Uud should be "A Dark world, that you can do something about."

Pat Boyette

> What's "Diegetic"?

This is a complicated-sounding term that is actually pretty simple. The concept is taken from film and culture studies and came to RPGs through Emmy Allen. If something is 'Diegetic' then its part of the world of the story, or the world of play.

So, in a Quentin Tarantino film, if we see someone driving their car, accompanied by cool music, it seems like a soundtrack. Then they stop the car, reach down and turn off the radio and the music stops.

We have a little moment of surprise. We thought it was non-diegetic and was actually Diegetic.

Many times I have used the idea of making something Diegetic in the creation of Uud.

Race and Humanity; there are big culture war discussions in D&D-land right now over the construction of 'Humanity' and what should or shouldn't be considered 'inhuman', as well as the concept of Race.

In Blackwater, in particular, people have very similar discussions. The culture has a specific idea of what is an isn't 'Human', and both Players, and Player Characters, can agree or disagree with that. These rules count quite differently even in Blackwater. Some Cities are highly conservative, others, like Yga, have relatively open rules about who is 'valid'.

Zoiterra also has its own ideas about what makes someone a valid person or not. Ones quite different from Blackwater, and even different from beast-to-beast.

The Worghast, or robotic people of Blackwater, have their own laws about what allows them to claim personhood.

This isn't intended to prove any particular point but to allow players to inhabit the world in a contextual complex and interesting way (should they wish to, you can still have a fun game where this stuff doesn't matter). The main idea is that each society has different standards and that these make sense *to that society*. Not that they are absolute truths.

The Eldritch Founder, the Seraphormer and the Vespershard are all, in part, literalised diegetic elements in-world of things which affect and influence the creation of that imagined world.

The Seraphormer is the 3D printing of minis, but also the whole creation of a character and their embedding in the imagined world of Uud. The Eldritch Founder is a little like the company Eldritch Foundry itself, given form and the Vespershard is a hoped-for validation of different peoples creations and desire for a positive feedback loop between Company and Fans, all given form as elements of Uud which could possibly be interacted with.

> Cross-Linking

My hope with the development of the Lore of Uud is that it will never be complete. Leaving some parts of Uud 'open' or undescribed is  deliberate. 

There are some places, people and events that there will never be an 'official' line on - to discover what happened you need to play through those events or do your version of fanfic about it - to actually make something.

I hope that the slow cross-linking and development of entries and lore grows, but always leaves some subjects, events and eras blank, and open to interpretation.

What really happened at the Treaty of Birch Falls? - Play to find out. How did Esh fall? - Play to find out. 

The reason for this is to keep Uud an "active" world, one made real by its use and interpretation, rather than a huge block of dead lore which will sell mainly to people of the 'lore keeper' mindset (which I don't object to, I am one after all) but which becomes so huge, interconnected and dense that it’s impossible to play in.

The existence of the Vespershard is meant to confirm this. Every version of Uud, no matter how the base material is used, is valid and appeared in the Vespershard.

> First-Person in Uud Fiction

What follows represents an original conception for fiction set in the reality of Uud. This shouldn't be considered an absolute rule but I will explain my methodology and the intentions behind it so you can decide for yourselves

My original idea was that every story would be from a specific in-world point of view. 

It could use a literary effect like a diary or letters or an interview. In this case the singular pov character would be the writer or the imaginary compiler of the information would be the writer (like the unseen *whoever* who collects all the letters in Bram Stokers Dracula).

If not using a specific literary effect of this type, the stories would use either a locked-in first person pov or a very close 3rd person pov. 

In close 3rd person, the point of view would be kept entirely on the main character and it would be clear that the described world would be seen from their point of view, literally, but also morally and politically. If the story describes the inside of other peoples heads, or things the main character can’t  witness, it should be clear in the text that this is that characters supposition or imagination about those things.

Each of these pov character would have a specific time, social position, social-moral-religious viewpoint and a particular way of interacting with the world. We see the world as they see it and for the period of the story we see it *only* as they see it, with their moral and social imperative and patterns of thought and behaviour.

So the world as a whole would be a kind of palimpsest, stitched together from these individual stories, and the discontinuities between stories would be part of the world as that is down to the different experiences of the pov characters.

Games Workshop says they do this, but in fact most of their major series are just normal stories with real attempts to maintain standard continuity, they use the "everything is unreliable" schtick to excuse their (understandable) failures in continuity and the shifting nature of the world as it changes under different writers.

But you could actually do what they do, but for real, build this world of individual tales and have different characters and writers encounter and interact with the same imaginary elements, like cities, characters, places and environments, across ranges of imagined time and imagined experience, and the differences between the points of view might be down to the differences in experience or could be actual changes in the imagined world.

So two characters in different stories could meet the same major NPC, but have totally different experiences of that, maybe they met them at different points in life, or just saw them differently, or they are lying or making stuff up.

Same with a place or event, different characters on completely different adventures or narratives can witness or interact with environments and cities or magics and have parallel or different responses and records.

And so the reader is picking their way through all these stories, which they know to be personal and unreliable, and in a state of continually putting together the 'real world' as something that is always slightly beyond direct confirmation. In a way they are like a journalist, researcher or historian of an imaginary world, trying to understand it.

So you still get arguments about 'the lore' and 'who meant what' but instead of being based on undesired discontinuities in what it written they are based on deliberate differences in the record. So everyone reading gets to 'play' in a way.

Click to go there


  1. I like no-canon-all-canon thing existing in-universe and I especially like Marginalia. But how is Marginalia isn't destroyed by Yggsrathaal? Is it, being Marginalia, in some state of not-fully-being, so Yggsrathaal cannot fully grasp and destroy it?

    1. Partly yes. Its hard to access. Its strands are always shifting an changing. The logic of its internal reality is different, time there is driven more explicitly by the experience of time by self-aware beings, rather than them living in time that already exists, so entropy is less powerful there. Whole thing is probably born from the slow disintegration of the various planes of the Udd-verse, as different levels or layers of reality slowly pull away from each other, Margenalia iniltrates the space betwen, like a weed.

      Even so there are still "tube-wars" in margenalai when Yggsrathaal manages to hold down an entry point and get her forces inside. Some of these have been going on for a while.

  2. I read your Spacehawk series recently and it was very interesting; when you were describing Esh I was picturing something like Spacehawk, Optimates like him maintaining the homeostasis of their home clusters, and because the world-between-worlds has parallels with Spelljammer, I saw the phlogiston take on the stained glass, shadowless color scheme of Spacehawk; the scheme seemed to fit the mood. Of course, that was then; I visualize the realms of Uud as stark shards of pale light clashing together in a black void, at least on the material level.

    An interesting aside could be sketching persistent border zones between mismatched realms linked by physical proximity or esoteric conduits, the way you did in

    I like how you are approaching this from the perspective that Uud is a dark place, but could be made better. The proper place of the good is in the shadow of the bad and vice versa; the proper place of beauty is in the same world as hideousness and horror. This is not so that they can subvert one another, but because these things really do live in the same world, with us; they complete one another within us. You understand the sublime when it suddenly justifies (makes worth it) all the horror and suffering you‘ve known; an experience of true beauty, mercy, love can throw all the darkness of life into sheol like the harrowing of hell and leave you with nothing but a tear-stained reverence for existence, despite its burden. And then you have to go back out into the cold and do your duty until next time. But that’s the contrast.
    Beauty and terror don’t have to always be within the same vision, but they should be within the same work, unless it’s truly trying to just do one thing.

    I think the idea that the world is a harsh place but you could make it better is part of what’s tantalizing about beginning a campaign in a dystopia; the players can kind of have their cake and eat it too, doing whatever they feel they need to and being ruthless while the world remains by-and-large nothing but struggling power blocs, but later in their superhero phase should they wish to try and bring about a new order, they will have license to do so, and it will probably be an improvement over the old one. I don’t think that the dystopian beginning is necessary superior, but I think that’s part of its allure for a GM. I usually find players are more inclined to nobly protect organizations they build and people they meet over elements of their backstory and the world’s holdovers from before their story began, important as they are for other reasons.

    1. I do really like the aestehtic of those early comics. Just re-watched 'Flash Gordon' at the movies and damn that is pretty film.

    2. Lucas said that in making A New Hope he wanted to pass on the experience of the sci fi serials he loved as a kid, their values and aesthetics, which hadn't survived into the period in which Star Wars was made; it seems like his early work on the film was much closer to the serials than the "lived-in" thing that developed over time. While I mentioned beauty, mercy and love as avenues of deep meaning, I forgot valor, glory, exploration and achievement, which are more integral to things like Flash Gordon, Spacehawk and Star Wars; equally palliative although experienced less commonly in the day-to-day. Two sets of avenues, perhaps characterizable as lunar and solar/Apollonian.

  3. Perhaps the most surprising thing here is that this is not the approach taken by the industry at large. It's really the most common sense framework and RPG line could have.