The Sorcerer Speaks

New in a recent version of Cosmic Cutthroats, the story of how the interdimensional metropolis of Uru Ulan came to be, in the words of its founder himself. WARNING: Shakespeare Thorspeak ensues!

ALSO NOTE: It’s entirely debatable how in-game “true” this testament is, but it’s certainly how Ensi Abgal wishes to appear to his servants and citizens.


“It came upon a time that I, the one others call Ensi Abgal, betook myself to found a city in the stars.


“I would found a city for the purposes of studying the heavens, and learning all that is in them, and obtaining such lore as had been kept from mortals even by the Neteru themselves. I would gain this great wisdom so as to be like the great king, Gilgamesh, to conquer death, and bring the serpent’s gift to all of mankind, in the name of great Marduk, and Inanna, and Ea who is above.


“But it is only through great study and sacrifice that Ereshkigal may be denied her due, the life of mortal man, as it has been since of old, and so my task was a heavy one. I wailed and despaired, until I built me servitors, walking men of stone.


“And though they served me well, they knew not the ways of the kitchen, and of speech they had none, so I looked into the scrolls of time, the past and future, and there I found for me other servants among mortal men, that I could betake me to study all the hours of the day.


“And some were men from other worlds, with strange flesh and strange manners, but they learned what I had to teach, and betimes their sages had aught to teach to me as well. And soon my library grew into a vast temple, and soon into a walled city, an orb of light in the endless dark.


“But though the wisdom granted to me by the gods is great, and the overseers beneath me good and strict, still rogues and rebels crept in among my servants, and coin and precious incense disappear into the night. And so I relay these, my edicts, to you, the people of my city. Obey them, and you shall live long and well, in this city I built. Fail, and you will be cast down from your place as a servant into shackles, or worse, into the gaping jaws of a cold and waiting grave.


“And do not forget, even you who call yourselves ‘nobles’ and fatten yourselves at my table, in my city, you are my servant, and if you raise a hand, or bethink you for a moment to betray and destroy he who generously raised you high … woe, woe, woe to you, and woe to your children and grandchildren, for how much worse for you will it be than for them, on whom the yoke was light!””

Story Fragment: The Dark Sorcerer

Once upon a time … I’m sure you’ve heard this story before. But you probably don’t know how it actually ended.

Once upon a time, there was an old man who was a powerful wizard. He was powerful enough to demand favors of gods, to bargain with demons, to walk unmolested through the hells of Ninhursag, who was known in the heavens and on Earth. He declared himself a lord of the world, raised armies, and strove to conquer all.

And he did. He ruled with an iron fist. His palaces overflowed with pleasures, while the peasants and common folk lived in abject poverty, wracked by monsters. Misery and injustice were everywhere. Rats swelled into vast hordes, and ate the folk alive in their home. The sky was dark by midday. Men killed one another for a loaf of bread. 

A band of heroes arose. A mighty champion. A cunning orphan. A priestess, pure of heart. Several others. The gods, jealous, were on their side, and the demons, tired of doing the sorcerers’ bidding, paved the way before them. The old tyrant scoffed, but somewhere inside, he knew. The oracles had spoken. He strove to disbelieve, but you don’t attain to great magic by ignorance.

The heroes slew the undead by the hundreds. They stormed the inner chambers. The sorcerer’s magics failed him, seemingly by chance, when they were needed most. And when the great warrior, shining and true, raised his sword, the sorcerer fell to his knees and, without hope in his heart, but at his last resort, he asked dully for mercy, for clemency.

The sword-bearer paused, lowered his weapon. Extended his hand. He extracted an oath from the black-hearted wizard. “Make this right. Redeem yourself. Save this world from the horrors you’ve unleashed, and then, using your powers, leave this world, never to return.”

The sorcerer … had foreseen all, all but this. He couldn’t have imagined that mercy could be granted for his many sins. Unthinkable! He swore the oath, though, and he was true to his word.

The warrior ruled, with a shadowy force behind the throne, his “advisor,” who none knew to be the self-same black-hearted wizard, the one all knew to be slain long ago, with a different face. With mighty spells, the land was healed. With rituals, the people thrived. Gold was discovered in the ground. The land was united through the brief unpleasantness of war, an anticlimactic war fought without slaughter, through the mage’s profound trickery. At last, the land was whole.

On a cool crisp evening, the warrior looked the old man in the eye. They were never friends, but they’d grown to … understand one another. Perhaps there was even a kernel of respect. But … there could never be trust. The warrior told the old man, “It’s time.” The wizard nodded. It was time.

The sorcerer rose into the night sky. He left this world for the heavens, to float, meditating, in the vast nothing. What more was there? If he couldn’t have the world, what did he want? He asked himself, and for a long forever, there was no reply.

Then, an image appeared in his head, then another. He thought about green shoots pushing through thick layers of ash, to welcome shafts of the sun streaming down through darkened clouds. He thought of children born to barren women, and tears of joy. He thought of men returning from wars to family and children, hanging their swords and shields on the wall, to gather rust and dust and stories. He thought of peace, and growth, comfort, and calm. Of books and stories written about tales of dread, but written with a full stomach, under a roof, with not a rat in sight.

A vast stone swam lazily through the void next to the sorcerer He looked at it. The walls of the craters on this planetoid looked something like a crenelated castle wall. Mayhap, a home, for study. For the greatest spell. A spell to bring peace and comfort, to entire worlds, for all time.

The sorcerer willed himself to fly to his new home, and it was so. In an immortal life, there was now so much to do.

Note: This isn’t necessarily the canonical origin story for Ensi Abgal and Uru Ulan, but it’s an idea, and I like it so far. I may develop it further later on, I just wanted to post it for feedback for now.

The Finest in Hand-Crafted Universes

One idea I have for Cosmic Cutthroats is to release dimension books, that would work as standalone settings. I know of one dimension-travel game that does that, so it’s not new, but it would still be fun.

Invulnerable 3rd Edition could be a sourcebook for CC, the dimension of Earth-Omega. Invulnerable itself grew out of a urban fantasy/horror game called Dirge that saw limited release online before I pulled it. In my mind, that world always had the depressing, poetic name The Vale of the Downtrodden. The sketchy setting for Wormholes & Waystations, the Sentient Assembly, would cover your space opera and giant robot genres. And I’ve always been a fan of post-apocalypse, settings, though I’ve never done more than tinker with a post-apoc setting. I have a name though, Dross Prime.

But for the core book itself, what will it play out like? How do you run a dimension travel game? I think the archetypal plot for CC will be The Seven Samurai. You’re wandering mercenary scum, you’re sucked into a local fight that’s not your own while you wait for the next dimensional gate to open, you grow to care for the locals, then, the big showdown. Of course, in a dimension travel game, you should be able to run any kind of plot. I see adventurers as money-grubbing trouble on the hoof, so Time Bandits works really well as a model, too. A major goal of most adventurers will be filling up their Edge meters, because that fuels all kinds of crazy stunts they’re capable of, so there will be a certain amount of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, too (note: also another Terry Gilliam film). Ultimately, the adventurers’ Qualities tell you what will grab the characters themselves and make the action personal.