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Saturday, 20 August 2011

When Earth was a planet with rings of vril

This blog has had a lot of coverage in the past of Abraxas, the lost continent that Jamie and I originally developed as a massively-multiplayer game world. It's definitely a setting that inspires us and we'd like to do something with it - though whether as a series of fantasy novels, a roleplaying game, a comic book, or something else remains to be seen.

In the meantime, while thinking of the best way to use it, we've put together an overview of Abraxas on Kindle - UK edition here and US edition here. Devotees of the blog will find no new material in the Kindle version, unless you count the poem by Robert E Howard, but if you want it all in one place in a form that's easy to cart along to a game, there it is. The cover blurb will tell you whether it's your cup of chumetl. (Sorry, in-joke there; don't worry if you don't get it.)
Abraxas is a lost continent from before the dawn of history. A place of high adventure, flashing swordplay, wild jungles, deserts of black sand, floating cities, classical temples, primordial animals, exotic wizardry and evil psionic aliens. When Abraxas finally sinks below the ocean, survivors will reach the mainland and seed the great civilizations of antiquity.

Who are the heroes?

Mighty swordsmen, gladiators, statesmen, scientists, explorers, barbarians. And wizards who watch the stars to predict threats to their homeland and their ideals. Some – the noble champions of the five city states – are born to greatness. Others achieve it despite humble beginnings, and even Neanderthal heroes are possible.

What do they do?

On the mainland, new young races of men (both Cro-Magnon and Neanderthal) are populating the world. Our heroes are destined to be remembered in legend as tutelary deities who guard and guide new cultures in the difficult struggle to survive. At the same time, they strive to confound the prophecies that say Abraxas itself is doomed.

What threats do they face?

Alien beings whose own worlds are dying have designs on the young Earth. Projecting their psyches across the gulf of space, they can influence the minds of weak mortals who worship these beings as if they were gods. The most powerful aliens such as the Churuk – and the Ulembi, whose home lies beyond the Coal Sack – are capable of physically manifesting themselves in our world.

How does magic work?

First of all, it's not really magic. First there is Thaumaturgy. In this period of the distant past, glittering rings like those of Saturn still encircle the Earth – remnants of a second moon that exploded. Adepts trained in the use of Thaumaturgy can draw down psychic energy from these rings. It is a form of magic that is powerful but unpredictable, based as it is on the solar-magnetic “weather” within the rings.

The other main form of magic is Wizardry. It is derived from the combination of the Four Substances (Earth, Air, Fire and Water – the “elements” as they were handed down to the ancient world) with the Four Essences (Aether, Life, Ur and Death). Wizardry is typically less epic in scale than Thaumaturgy, but more reliable and controllable. Think of it like technology is for us today.

What makes Abraxas unique?

Abraxas is very far from the usual quasi-medieval style of fantasy. There are no orcs, goblins and dragons. Every animal and nonhuman creature is unique to the Abraxas world, making it highly brandable and distinctive. Many of the fauna of Abraxas are mutated versions of mid-Tertiary animals that have survived on Abraxas itself until the time of the game, around 35,000 B.C. The cities of Abraxas are wondrous metropolises, mighty proto-civilizations of the great cultures of history such as Egypt, Babylon and Carthage.


  1. Hmm, I fear the use of "vril" may lead to misunderstandings, since it was supposed -though later denied - that some Nazis were members of a "Vril-Society"...
    By the way, the Bavarian grave of R.Hess, one of the possible members of that society, was dismantled one month ago, because it had turned into a kind of shrine for Neo-Nazis. R.Hess' remnants were cremated and dumped on high sea. Conspiracy fans will surely imagine a plot where R.Hess and Bin Laden are raised back as undead on the sunken continent of Abraxas.... ;-)

  2. In Britain we have a drink/spread called Bovril, the name derived from bovine (it's a beef product) and vril (popular New Age-y term in the 1870s, like auras today). Many of the Nazis did believe a whole bunch of mad stuff (including that the sun has a frozen iron core) but I'll be damned if I'll relinquish use of the word vril just because of them!

    I do feel a little sorry for Rudolf Hess, though, as he was found not guilty of war crimes and left Germany before the implementation of Die Endlösung. As Churchill said, "His was a medical case, not a criminal one."

  3. I'm going to go out on a limb here and assume "chumetl" = Tekumel joke (?).

  4. Ah, but you don't win the No-Prize unless you can guess what it might be, Hamza...

  5. Chumetl. Add salt, chili powder, and a pinch of cayenne pepper to a quart of buttermilk, and chill. Be careful with the salt: I used a teaspoon, which was far too much! A little chumetl goes a long way: nobody took more than a couple of sips.

    - The Eye of All-Seeing Wonder
    Issue Five | Summer 1995

    Google is your friend.

  6. Ah, Google - that's cheatin' :-) I have to say that Bob Dushay (who wrote that) probably overdid the salt and spices. If you think of chumetl as something like lassi, or like the buttermilk served in southern India with spices like cumin, that's pretty refreshing and people certainly enjoy more than a few sips.

  7. It sounded a bit vile to me. Even he said he overdid the salt. It reminds me of a salty Turkish yoghurt drink called ayran (though ayran is not as spicy); not to everyone's taste.

    So you were at that feast, I'm guessing?

  8. I've been at Tsolyani meals, Patch - most notably a feast hosted by Michael Cule, one of the stars of the Knightmare TV show - but not at Bob Dushay's, alas.