Friday, 13 January 2012

Utolso Varos, the Last City

If I were to run an Iron Heroes game for my next campaign, it would be set in Utolso Varos, the Last City. This, as the name suggests, is the last city on earth, and mankind has retreated to it as the world grows old and fades, and life for human beings becomes hostile.

Like Nessus or Viriconium, Utolso Varos is almost collapsing under the weight of its own history. It is many thousands of years old, and feels it - it is decadent, listless, and resigned, although it still possesses a faded and elegant sort of beauty. It is situated on an island in the middle of a great inland sea, and beyond that sea is the wild, dying earth, peopled by beings wondrous and alien, and scattered with the ruins and remnants of the civilizations of aeons past.

The earth has become so old that its very existence has become tattered and frayed. Time passes slowly, and the light of the sun has become flat and dull. Alien spirits and demonic things from other realities slip through the decaying fragmentary boundaries between their worlds and ours. Those who can practice magic hoard it, as if it might protect them from the inevitable end of all things. Gradually the human race dwindles, and history turns its face away.

And in this world we find the PCs: a bunch of guys with big swords raging against the dying of the light by killing things and taking their stuff.


  1. This is a great description of a world. I hope you do get to play it, and post some recaps.

    I have to admit, I think I'd be a bit depressed playing in a world like that though. A dying world, tough place to live.

  2. So is this what we're playing when we reach a suitable pause in Cyberpunk?

  3. Great image you're painting. Also, I approve of the choice of language! :P

  4. Your descriptive language immediately made me think of Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities. I've always meant to plumb the text for setting inspiration. I will have dig my copy out of the piles and give it a re-read.

  5. So, does it also include ancient, poorly understood technology, a la Thundarr or John Carter?

  6. Matt Kauko: Not for Cugel at least. ;)

    zero_zero_one: I hope so, though shouldn't be for a while yet. Also Patrick might want to run something.

    3llense'g: Are you Hungarian?

    elhijo: Never read it, always meant to.

    Marshall Smith: Of course. I'm being pretty blatant about ripping off Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun and M. John Harrison's Viriconium, and they both feature that sort of thing. The technology will of course be unpredictable and perhaps actively malicious, like the AI in I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream, being angry at mankind for no longer having a use for it.

  7. 3llense'g: I just clicked on your profile and noticed you are. Hungarian is a great "fantasy" language if you're an English speaker, because it's not Indo-European - it means the words are totally unrecognisable. I'm a fan of using real world languages for inspiration: these are real words that people use, so they have a genuine resonance that made-up words don't have.

  8. Dying earth is a great setting for a D&D game and Vance and Wolfe are great sources of insperation for all games, not just those in that genre.

    And I agree with you about Hungarian, that is part of the reason that I have a couple of Hungarian based countries in my game world, just to be able to mine the language a bit.

  9. 'Patrick might want to run something.'


    Also, have you actually read Iron Heroes? I had a quick look through a copy I 'borrowed' from the internet. I t reminded me a lot of fourth edition.

    My first thought was that a while ago I played with the idea of a 4th ed game with only the martial classes and really minimal magic. I thought it would take away the more shit parts of 4th ed and leave a pretty simple combat tactics game without any of the more tiresome blather and glitz.

    Then I read Iron Heroes and realised that someone had already created that game and that in fact they had hacked it and added a whole lot of tinsel and turned it into 4th Edition.

    I was really surprised that you wanted to run it due to the apparent similarity and the fact that you had no interest at all in playing 4th.

    Of course its also possible that my view of them as similar is shaped by my limited knowledge of D&D. I've only ever DM'd 4th and LOTFP so those are the only things I have to compare it to.

  10. Patrick: I'm sort of curious about it, more than anything else. A lot of what puts me off about 4e is due to its blandness. But I think Mike Mearls, the designer, is a very intelligent and thoughtful person, and not responsible for the blandness - I think that comes from it being a corporate endeavour. Iron Heroes, which is sort of his baby, seems less bland.

  11. @noisms: Yeah, I guess what I meant was, kind of depressing that the only thing the players have to work for is treasure and glory, no chance to make a real difference in their world.

    Maybe that's kind of an interesting comment on the world we live in today though...

    Great game.