I don’t work for Luka Rejec, Exalted Funeral, or anyone else involved in fantasy RPG publishing. In fact, the opposite is true: rather than them paying me, I am one of the 52 top tier backers for Luka’s Patreon (I inched up from the lowest tier to the highest tier over a few months last summer/autumn). I am also the very first backer of the UVG Kickstarter and I copped one of the limited top tier backer slots at that. If anything, Luka and Exalted Funeral now work for me! Suckers. Anyway, that’s my disclaimer. They’re not affording me any consideration for this rambling madness.
You have a week left to get in on the runaway success of the UVG Kickstarter. I’m going to lay out some reasons for you to do that.
Ultraviolet Grasslands, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere on this blog and in the ephemeral wastelands to Twitter, is extremely my jam. It is the culmination of a journey through a gauntlet of influences survived by the eminently talented and hard working Luka Rejec. The reason it resonates so wonderfully with me is that it seems like we shared nearly identical influences despite growing up on opposite sides of the planet and leading very different lives. The same influences left indelible marks on my brain and dwelled in a proverbial primordial ooze somewhere in my cerebrum, unshaped, unexpressed, like some kind of clay without a sculptor. Luckily, Luka’s path took him down the road to Renaissance Man Town and he learned to draw and write to give voice and image to his weird inspiration ooze. He made Ultraviolet Grasslands, and the first time I heard of it, it was like discovering the DNA of my own inspiration. It was crystal clear to me.
Ultraviolet Grasslands is the result of a young Luka, in Europe and Africa, reading Metal Hurlant/Heavy Metal Magazine. The influence of the art of Druillet and Moebius is inescapable. It is the result of Luka listening to hours of heavy metal, hearing the science fantasy lyrics of Blue Oyster Cult at maximum volume. It is the result of Luka playing Oregon Trail and recognizing, in the green and black glow of the screen, that the difficulty and travails of the randomized journey is the interesting part, not necessarily the destination. It is the result of Luka seeing the 1981 Heavy Metal movie and dreaming of astronaut-driven cars of unknown origin raining from the sky like shooting stars on an August night, trilling fuzzy guitar riffs all the way down. It is the result of Luka reading the words of Jack Vance and picking out the hints of recognizable nods to our own Earth in the distinctly alien future Earth proposed in his vivid prose.
Ultraviolet Grasslands is what happens when you grew up with those influences as one of the pillars of your imagination. Luka grew up with these things. I did, too, and because of that, I am incredibly thankful he had the skills and drive to make this book.
As a Patron on his Patreon, I got to see the UVG updates and to read the original version of this game. It was an incredible one-man project even then. It was clean, and beautiful, and filled with hundreds of his drawings. There is no doubt in my mind that an illustrated story of UVG would have made the cut and wound up on the pages of a 1982 Heavy Metal Magazine if we gave Luka a time machine. The writing is incredibly evocative – I am a fast reader, and I got so sidetracked imagining what I was reading that consuming the UVG updates took me twice as long as they should have, every damn time. It’s no secret that Luka writes with great flair and clarity, with a certain wonderful vocabulary of made-up words that seem to belong where he puts them with great ease. Ultraviolet Grasslands exhibits this in spades.
In his Patreon Discord, he has shared some of the improvements and changes to the book; expansions and things which the wise Jarrett Crader and FM Geist have labeled #NeedsMore and which he has revised with new content or explanation. It is quickly shaping up to be an even stronger book, and now we’ve crossed $75,000 and I believe Matt from Exalted Funeral is forcibly cramming Luka into a dank bunker with an LED lamp and some Copics to color literally every damn picture in the thing. There is no doubt in my mind that the new version will put the old version – which I already adore – to shame. In fact, here’s something of a SNEAK PREVIEW of the work-in-progress layout!
There are dice. Custom, hot purple UVG dice. Dice that likely will never be seen again. Those of us who mangle the hours of our days in the Discord watched Luka labor over these dice faces, and then revise and revise again.
There is a GM screen, which Luka says he is making in a long format. It may possibly wind up being a broad scenic vista of the strange landscape of the Ultraviolet Grasslands. When I remarked that I had dreamed of one based on Sleep’s Dopesmoker album cover but with More Color, he agreed that this was not far off from his vision. Whatever we get, it will be incredible, exclusive art.
There is a map. It is over 4.5′ long. If that doesn’t make you lose your actual mind, I do not know what you want from life. A giant map! Of a made up place! The map is going to be accordion-fold, though I believe Matt was looking into making it a roll-up instead if the shipping could be made to be roughly equivalent.
There’s a batch of add-on postcards. You could keep or send postcards from famous locations in the Rainbowlands like some kind of tourist. For extra points, put together a porcelain prince cosplay with black socks and sandals and LARP your way to the post office when you send these to your confused and possibly estranged friends and family.
There may be digital tools, presenting an infinitely-configurable online DM’s screen for creation of all manner of randomization specific to the Ultraviolet Grasslands. This kicks in about $5,000 from now, which means we’ll likely hit it before the end of the campaign even without a late rush. Press button, get answers. Table after table after table. Luka has even batted around the idea of ongoing, exclusive additions to the book via this route – new tables, new generators, you name it. Who knows! But it’s being made by Saker Tarsos, who runs several interesting Twitter bots and also a great blog and who does this whole “computers” thing as his day job professionally.
Besides what we all get out of the deal – which is a lot – there are other reasons to support this book and the Kickstarter that brings it to life. Some of those are:
Luka is almost certainly an extradimensional brain-in-a-jar masquerading as a man but the illusion is seamless enough that he has me convinced he is in fact a Slovenian dude who was born into the latter days of Communist Yugoslavia, spent his youth abroad among a myriad of cultures in Africa, and returned to find the home he left behind scarred by war and reforming under a new name with a new government and new history unfolding before his very eyes. He is quite likely able to see in six dimensions and perceives the edges of the color spectrum like a deep sea shrimp but he sure seems to be (to the outside observer, anyway) a dude who criss-crossed the European Union and wound up in Asia. There’s a lot to be said about games and art coming from a creator with that kind of background. That’s the kind of art I want to help. That’s the kind of art I want to consume. A perspective shaped by experiences utterly unlike my own, given shape.
When the Kickstarter began to take off, Luka didn’t calculate his own payday excitedly like some kind of pen-wielding Scrooge. He made a stretch goal to pay his editors twice as much money for their work. Support projects that equitably pay their contributors.
All of Luka’s planning in this project has revolved around the schedule. He did the manuscript first, ages ago, in a low-risk environment full of feedback to help polish it. He ran a test project with his print and fulfillment partners at Exalted Funeral (Witchburner). He chose a rare 60-day Kickstarter timeline to ensure most of the work could be achieved before the Kickstarter even closed. He worked hard to pick stretch goals that would not change the final delivery date. He wants the book in our hands in the time promised, and he wants that date to be on the near horizon instead of a year away. We should, as consumers, want to support that attitude. Kickstarter is supposed to help summon capital to enable an entity to take a ready product and produce it and put it on shelves or in user hands – not pay for the R&D phase. A few years back the RPG community suffered a whole lotta disappointment in a multitude of failed Kickstarters, around when Google+ started gaining steam. It shouldn’t have to be that way. Matt and Luka have worked very hard to prove that. I want my dollars to speak for that method.
Most importantly of all: if we can get to $99,999, Luka will be cruelly forced to undertake the arduous task of filming a preposterous UVG-themed yoga instructional video for us all to cherish. This began as a running joke for an outlandish goal, but the enthusiasm of gamers has continually brought it closer and closer to reality. I suspect somewhere around $60,000, the panic really started to set in. I’m sure that the $75,000 mark made his blood run cold. The horrifying possibility that he may actually have to do it – with European metal vocals as a backing track (for real) – is likely keeping him awake at night. If you, like me, are fueled by spite towards those you love, then your highest calling must be UVG evangelism just to put Luka on that padded mat, performing Downward-Facing Vome for all of Youtube. He’s gonna be famous!
UVG is a gorgeous, unique book. It is coming along with a bunch of neat baubles for our collections. It is filled edge to edge with incredible jewels of imagination from one of the best creators of our era of gaming. No two games here will play the same. No two instances of the UVG will be identical. Our tables will be filled with ridiculous disasters, laughter, awe, puzzlement, and more. It is like playing out a documentary in the mind of Moebius while Blue Oyster Cult and Sammy Hagar do the narration.
You have a week to shake any doubts you have, assemble your caravan, and cross the expanse on an unbelievable journey through walled towns with flashing neon lights, obscure monuments of arcane hand gestures from time immemorial, and scorching guitar solos.