Saturday, October 20, 2018

Review & OSR Campaign Commentary On Through Ultan's Door Issue 1 By Ben Laurence

"Go through Ultan's door in this inaugural issue into the Ruins of the Inquisitor's Theater, a 30 room dungeon replete with oneiric puddings, delicate shadow puppets, giggling white swine, and much more. This 36 page zine contains everything you need to launch a D&D campaign in the Zyan, flying city of the dreamlands. Brought to life with a gorgeous map by Gus L and the stunning art of Huargo. It may very well have come from beyond the veil of sleep!"

There are very few zines or adventures that get me really excited or interested these days. Call me jaded & more then a bit OSR crispy. The fact is that perhaps maybe 2011, I'd wet myself over the latest module or OSR doodad. These days not so much but I was intrigued over  Ben Laurence's
  Through Ultan's Door Issue 1.So much so that I plunked down the dough for a physical copy of the zine. Why? Because I'm looking for a bit of twisted & dark Little Nemo In Slumberland campaign action. This isn't it it kids because this one is much darker & twisted along the edges of Lamentations of the Flame Princess without the canned history. Ben's been a part of the OSR scene for years & I loosely follow his blog from time to time going all of the way back to 2015 or so. I know the name going back to Gavin Norman's excellent little free OSR adventure tie in From the Vats.

If you haven't picked that bit of OSR adventure/campaign starter I strongly suggest that you do. Through Ultan's Door Issue 1 is a very different adventure beast entirely. This is a lethal little creation that runs into the warped reaches of the authors mind pitting PC's against the  a 30 room dungeon replete with oneiric puddings, delicate shadow puppets, giggling white swine, and much more. This isn't the Dreamlands of HP Lovecraft although it could be; instead this is an acid trip combination of William Hope Hodgson's influence mixed with a hash fueled round of Lord Dunsany trapped in the madness of Edgar Allan Poe's dream cycle material. The artwork is top notch & the adventure material is darker then the usual OSR cutesy crap I've been seeing lately. There's a lot of hidden & double laden literature references scattered throughout the adventure. I asked for my pdf copy because I did back reading on the author's blog especially after reading City State of The World Emperor: Lessons from a Failed Experiment blog entry. 
Everything is self contained within the zine for acting as a stepping stone for a complete dreamland campaign. The Zyan, flying city of the dreamlands lives up to its name allowing PC's to get right into the deep end of the weirdness. The layout is by Matt Hildebrand & it can be easily read. The dungeon is weird as Hell & very cleverly lethal, the cartography is well done. The text is easy on the eyes. The artwork here is solidly done& there are some terrible things awaiting the PC's in the dungeon. Much of the dream world setting reminds me of the twisted Orientalism/Alienism of Professor Barker's Empire of the Petal Throne rpgI could definitely see Through Ultan's Door Issue 1 working whole cloth with Yoon-Suin, the Purple Land by David McGrogan.

Or even better yet for an OSR backbone for
Through Ultan's Door Issue 1 I can really see dusting off P. Crespy's  Flower Liches of the Dragonboat Festival. 

All of the above titles have the weird & twisted alien OSR quality about them. There's a sense of the 'other reality' terror inducing dreamworld about these titles that fit. Perhaps Mad Monks of Kwantoom could be used as a campaign junction for the dreamworlds of  Through Ultan's Door Issue 1
This zine has been a labor of love for the author & with it being solidly OSR I can see this setting working with many old school & OSR systems.
Yes I could see using the alien dreamlands of
Through Ultan's Door Issue 1 with Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea second edition but some adjustments might have to be made to the Hyperborea setting. That's a blog entry for another time.

For nine dollars you get a completely dangerous & original OSR dungeon with a complete setting city in the form of
the Zyan the flying city of the dreamlands. The issue is printed on deluxe paper, and comes with a detachable cover that has a map printed on the interior by Gus L., and a separate card for encounters. I loved the ideas on the Mazirian's Garden blog that I ordered the zine myself. I give it a five out of five & I'm looking forward to the second issue which the author is working on currently.

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