[Click to Return to Blue Lamp Road]

For Newcomers

The Scrolls

Fan Archives

Uresia: A Quick Primer
"What is this Uresia thing I keep hearing about?"

The Blue Lamp Road pages won't make a lot of sense if you don't have a copy of Uresia: Grave of Heaven, but if you're wondering if you'd like it, here's a whirlwind primer on just what kind of fantasy world the Grave of Heaven really is (or, if you're a visual type, browse some groovy cartography wallpapers)!

The Skyfall

A long time ago, the world was nearly destroyed in a terrible apocalypse where the realm of the gods fell on the realm of mortals, breaking quite a lot of it and leaving a watery grave where the cities of heaven and the afterworld lay, sinking into the sea, broken and haunted. That grave, centuries later, is Uresia: a vast crater that, these days, just seems like a suspiciously round group of habitable islands, lush with greenery and bursting with magic. The mortals, ironically, lived on. There are a few chunks of land that didn't fall all the way to the ground and stubbornly refuse to, but that's another story . . .

A key theme of Uresia is the struggle between the past (particularly dearly-held traditions, beliefs and habits) and the present (particularly the practical and sometimes urgent needs of a changing world). The "Skyfall" apocalypse is one of the most blatant reflections of that theme, because it let me explore a lot of different reactions to it: some people ignore it, some people fight to bring the dead gods back to life, some just act as if they never died. Many people are simply unaware of it because those who lived before them decided not to bring it up anymore during dinner conversation.

The Islands

[The Grave of Heaven - Rough Map of Central Islands]The islands of Uresia are the remnants of a shattered otherworld, so each land has peculiarities reflecting the particular "heaven" that fell there. In some lands, like Yem and Boru, the ties are very overt (Yem is the remains of the land of the dead, Boru is the remains of what must have been quite a heavenly bacchanal). In others, the ties are subtler or even unguessable. But all that aside, the islands are busy kingdoms, engaging in intrigues, wars, culture and daily life, as kingdoms tend to do. Some have serious problems in need of heroic solutions, some have serious problems that no amount of heroism can fix, and some are just fun places to swing a sword or call down lightning. Surrounding the civilized islands are the "Troll Lands" - remnants of the old (broken) lands from before the Skyfall. The Troll Lands are, as the name implies, inhabited by large, primitive creatures, wandering among the silent ruins of a past age. Magic is weak in the Troll Lands, and Uresians who travel there suffer a painful longing to return to the enchanted grave of heaven.

Shadow River

Shadow River is the heart of Uresia (the book), and in some ways the heart of Uresia (the world) as well. I love Bigass Fantasy Cities, and Shadow River is the kind of Bigass Fantasy City I love, sitting as a central port on the shore of a kingdom defined mostly by the fact that it's cursed and inhabited by the kind of people who don't mind. Shadow River is dangerous, varied, and gets just about as much coverage as all the islands put together. It's Uresia in microcosm at it's rollicking, adventuresome best (and worst). More important (maybe) it shows what happens when the camera drops out of the sky and into one of the kingdoms for a closer look, providing a meaty setting with lots of gameable detail within the more general framework of the world.

Rogan's Heath

[image of Rogan's Heath]
This is a quiet little hamlet in the hills of one of the more traditional kingdoms, and if Shadow River is the book's heart, Rogan's Heath is the book's soul. The zoom is even tighter and the focus more intimate, peeking into individual households to see what folks are doing when they're not busy harvesting Sour Plums or skating on the frozen pond. I don't just love Bigass Fantasy Cities, I like the pastoral and rural side of fantasy, as well, and that's what Rogan's Heath is all about . . . It's also about the quirky secrets and oddities that small communities often harbor, and a look at what Uresia is like away from the hustle and the bustle. If I lived in Uresia, I'd want to visit Shadow River, then go home to a place like Rogan's Heath.

And Bits and Pieces and Stuff

The book also explores some unusual mysteries and secrets, a bunch of fantasy races, a few creatures, and things like that. If you wander through the book, you'll find demons (both good and evil), wizards (several kinds), beast men (and cat girls, of course), weird humor, sad stories, magic mecha, enchanted caravels full of sex-crazed satyrs, and a pirate king that just happens to be a dragon (complete with eyepatch).

Uresia is Swords & Sorcery

Uresia isn't what I'd call avant-garde; it makes no attempt to re-define traditional fantasy gaming. Rather, it's a very particular (and at times peculiar) celebration of it. At the surface level, at least, it's very much a world of high-adventure, derring-do, spell-slinging, heroic monster-whacking, and all that fancy stuff. Beneath the surface (even past the dungeons, I mean) it's something more, but that won't interest you much if you don't enjoy what's on the surface! If you like traditional fantasy, though, read on.

Uresia is Anime-Influenced

From the apocalyptic origins to the bouncy slimes and odd notes of playful anachronism, Uresia is very much an anime world, inspired by fantasy anime like Bastard!! and Record of Lodoss War and Slayers, and also by anime that has little or nothing to do with traditional fantasy (I'm not an indiscriminate anime junkie, but I love a lot of it, and wasn't shy about letting all of it influence the book in some way). It's designed, very deliberately, to show off the many fun things you can do with a good anime RPG. So, if you like an anime feel to your gaming, read on.

Uresia is Very "S. John"

This point is (perhaps ironically) the hardest for me to pin down, but it's very true and pretty important: Uresia is a very personal work, and it builds on both years of my own fantasy campaigns and years of my work as a game writer, reflecting my design philosophy, my GMing philosophy, and my personal philosophies on every page. If you're familiar with my work and enjoy it, then Uresia will probably [Shadow River Neighborhoods]appeal to you. If you're not familiar with my work but you enjoy subtle satire, not-so-subtle silliness, and sometimes jarring transitions between the jolly and the grim, there's a good chance you're an S. John fan who just doesn't know it yet (read on). Ditto if you like worlds where key questions of cosmology are left mysterious to serve the needs of the GM. If any of what I just described sounds horrifying, sloppy or frustrating, move along. Nothing to see here!

Uresia is Short

Uresia is a distillation of a fantasy world, the concentrated essence of it. There are a million things happening in the world and I suggest just about all of them without always going into detail. If you're familiar with my writing in GURPS Warehouse 23 and Points in Space 1 in particular, you've seen me write like this before. Uresia is made up of suggestive doorways and shapely silences, a dense little collection of adventure and character ideas bound by a common theme and setting. I designed material for a much longer work, to make sure all those suggestions really meant something. If that sounds interesting, stick around and browse, snag the book, and play!


Home | Cumberland Games | The Fontworks | Risus | Fly From Evil
Uresia: Grave of Heaven | GURPS | Star Trek | Crossword | The FAQ
Pokethulhu | Gourmand Bleu | Secret Library | Blog | S. John