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Ultraviolet Grasslands 2E: An Interview with Luka Rejec

In UltraViolet Grasslands and the Black City Second Edition (UVG) is a revised RPG setting and rule set written by Luka Rejec.

UltraViolet Grasslands and the Black City Second Edition (UVG) is a revised RPG setting and rule set written by Luka Rejec. Player characters travel into the depths of a vast and mythic steppe filled with the detritus of time and space. It is the ultimate point crawl setting with a Grand Long Map that is six feet long top to bottom! Luka was kind enough to talk to me about the Grasslands.


Charles Dunwoody (CD): Thanks for talking with me, Luka. If you had one paragraph to explain UVG, how would you describe your book and the heavy metal setting within?
Luka Rejec (LR):
I think your intro already describes it! But, ok, I’ll give it a shot. You know how in Moorcock’s Elric and Hawkmoon novels the protagonists are these larger than life, demigodlike characters traveling a world at the edge of space and time, meeting gods and fighting demons and listening to Hawkwind and Iron Maiden? Well, imagine you’re not them. You’re just some folks with a sentient RV out there trying to make a living and not worrying too much about the end of time. Sure, the overlords of creation might talk a pretty song about how they’re fighting for a better tomorrow, but you’ve got patrons to pay off, taxes to avoid, and profits to make.

CD: Are the core rules really one page (yes) and how does that design bring UVG to life at the table?
Yeah, they’re distilled down to one page. But, to be honest, they assume a familiarity with at least basic D&D/old school style game terminology: dice, rolls, targets, defenses, etc. I’ve got a more elaborated version, with examples and edge cases, but really - the rules are simple, the game master adjudicates, and the UVG uses tables to throw spanners into the best laid plans. Thing is, I faced a kind of choice: do the whole song and dance introducing what is an RPG, or leave that to systems and writers who’ve done a better job than I ever could and focus on just providing more content and random events. I chose the latter. A lot of what the UVG really does is provide the framework and prompts for a long journey and weird things happening, surprises for all the players, including the referee.

CD: What types of characters can players look forward to playing in your RPG and can they really earn experience for carousing (yes)? I know I like the Moon Mountain witch narco-herbalist and the Redland District golem encoder with a sentient donkey.
Yeah, there’s an ornate table of 50 different character backgrounds, strange reasons for traveling, weird items, and more quirks. The point is to get a fun, unexpected character - or at least provide a prompt for the player to react against. Mechanically, the characters start pretty simple: a bit of life, one level, and a hunger for experience. The skill system (if you can call it that) is that if it makes sense that a character, based on their traits, could do a thing … then they can. My favorites are the barista and necromancer lawyer, personally. Oh, and that donkey. That one’s to make players treat their mounts like people, haha. I forget exactly how coffee became so important in the setting. I suspect it must have been one of the Golden Goats’ character in the first group to explore the world (and create it with their shenanigans). And yes, carousing is a big part of the structure. It’s a simple mechanic for converting money into experience points and generating silly problems for the characters.

CD: There are rules including vehicles and mounts like the magnificent velblod (camel) and autogolem to run a caravan through the Grasslands. What are some of the challenges and adventures PCs will face as they explore the Ultraviolet Grasslands?
Oof. That’s kind of a big question. The whole book is basically the challenges and adventures they’ll face. It’s divided into a number of large destinations, like a pointcrawl, each with its own random events, encounters, and local specialties. Resource management is an ongoing challenge: caravans without supplies may end up eating animals, searching for water, and discovering ancient automatic canneries. As for adventures, the structure provides a few hooks for the referee. Those who want to build a bigger story arc can use some of the powerful factions, like the spectrum satraps or porcelain princes, as antagonists. Others can opt for a more “monster of the week” approach, with the caravan reaching a new destination and the referee fleshing out a local discovery with a basic five-room dungeon and some consequences.

CD: What tools and details on weird NPCs (Vorgo the Were-Pug comes to mind) will GMs get to help in creating adventures and making the Grasslands come alive?
Everyone focuses on Vorgo. I didn’t expect the were-pug to be so popular. Still, in 2E there are tables of additional travelers, patrons, problems with investments, and various NPCs scattered at every location. They range the gamut from hapless ne’er-do-wells (Vorgo) to trapped or mad godlings (too many to count). I mentioned the different factions, from the powerful (my favorite are the mind-controlling cats) to the very weak and local (some of the Three Sticks clans were lots of fun to write). Then there is the final antagonist [?], the Black City, and beyond it the undying heroes. A barhalla at the edge of time.

CD: What other support is there beyond the core book, available now or upcoming?
There are a couple of VTTs ready or in the works. Playrole.com has a pretty complete setup. A few folks have made ports for games like Black Hack and Into the Odd. The Facebook UVG public group has grown to over 600 people (I know, shocking), and there’s my Patreon where folks add some new stuff often enough. I’ve struggled with the sequel to the UVG for a while, because I tried to combine rules and world into a single book. Recently I decided to do the simple thing and split them up, so I’m now publishing smaller zines under the Synthetic Dream Machine (SDM) label (www.syntheticdreammachine.com). Eternal Return Key provides an alternate start in the middle of the UVG for characters probably revived from the dust by a strange force. There, A Red Door is an art zine with some new locations. Magitecnica expands the magic rules and provides some new spells. And, the big sequel currently in the works is Our Golden Age, a writeup of the “civilized” realms adjacent to the UVG. If the UVG is mostly about long-distance travel, this one is more focused on Tintin-style there-and-back again adventures.

CD: Many readers of EN World are D&D and Pathfinder players. What would you say if they asked why should they might want to explore the Ultraviolet Grasslands for a while?
I’d say that if they’re willing to do a little bit of reskinning, they would find the UVG an interesting destination. Most creatures are described with a level and line of text - if a DM is willing to take the stats for an ogre and call that a shambling vome, while taking the stats for an ent and using them for a blood baobab, that’s all they really need. Someone recently said it reminds them of a weirder Outlands (from Planescape), and that may well track. It’s a world riddled with portals and anomalies, characters and problems. But the book is also full of locations and art that can be scavenged for any kind of planar/wizard diversion. That said, for players who really like all their rules and mechanics nailed down and running smoothly, I’d say: read it for the vibes, not the clockwork.

CD: Where can gamers go to find your work?
I’ve already mentioned a few places, but I suppose the most obvious places these days are Instagram for my art (Instagram), patreon for my games-in-progress (Patreon) - including pdfs of all the additional content I mentioned, and substack for my fiction (substack) - I update that one rarely, so it’s a low-stress way to follow along.

CD: Any final comments you’d like to share with the readers of EN World?
I’d like to thank all the game masters and dungeon masters and referees for enjoying roleplaying games so much that they take the time and effort to run games, bring people together, forge friendships, and create new and wonderful worlds of the imagination. They are real heroes of our anomic, over lonely age. I feel like a lot of actual play and online games have really raised expectations on what a GMDMRefJudge should be doing to make a proper game. Sometimes, scratch paper, simple rules, and roll high is enough. I’d like to remind them that they’re also players and that they also deserve to have fun, relax, and play without knowing precisely where things are going to go. Anyway, whichever way you roll, thank you for playing!

Charlie Dunwoody participates in the OneBookShelf Affiliate Program and the Noble Knight Games’ Affiliate Program. These programs provide advertising fees by linking to DriveThruRPG and Noble Knight Games.

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Charles Dunwoody

Charles Dunwoody

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