For years now I’ve been holding back on penning this description of one of the worst places in Cobrin’Seil, and only because it’s the worst in a different way to you’d expect. Oh it’s a tightly controlled city with a gaggle of liches trading favours at the top making the whole place a necromantically controlled undead polity, but the real problem the city has is its housing rates and fad technology bubbles.
Welcome to Uxaion.
The player’s basics
Here’s your high-level pitch. Uxaion is a necromantic cyberpunk city where it’s always night and people and gangs squabble in the underclass dealing with economics of living in a rich place where the richest people are able to literally siphon off your life if they can make you desperate enough to give it. It’s a city haunted by capitalism, where even if only one in four of the Startup Necromancer businesses that are Changing The World are run by an Evil Necromancer, that’s still a shitload more Evil Necromancers per head. It’s an adventure city where it’s always grimy and you have pacts with ghosts and the undead and people flip open skulls they use for communication with The Boss.
It’s one of a number of states in Cobrin’Seil that have the appleation of necrostate. One of them, The Osteon, has already shown up in a conversation about The Szudetken, where there, the undead are both sanitised and used as a form of mass industrialisation. The Osteon is very Victorian. Uxaion (“Out of Time”, they claim) is much more Big Tech, Big Noise, Big Indulgence. The city is decorated in vibrant paints and bright colours and ugly architecture because they can always spend to maintain things and the living feed the dead with their time and effort. Being a necrostate is obviously politically fraught, because most other places are either jealous of you (oh wow, no continuity of government problems and no fear of death if I, a king, live forever), or deeply worried by what you represent (wow, we couldn’t get rid of one of our shitty kings?). This gives the city a tenuous position politically, almost no form of extradition or legal imposition of other countries, but also not isolation.
Some example characters that might come from Uxaion:
- A boneyarder, someone who works for or around the criminal gangs that populate the underclass of Uxaion. You may have necrosymbiotes or a soul pact, or a contract with a necromancer for your resuscitation
- A worker in the city who has to bounce between the Response-Incident Patrollers, Private Security Firms and gangs in order to navigate their day. They may have a day job that involves running rituals for hours at a time to maintain their work spot until something goes wrong one day.
- One of the experiments of the necrotic state! Who’s to say you haven’t been brought back for a bad reason and now you’re putting together your new life, while trying to find a way out of the contractual ownership your resurrector thinks they have over you?
- A necromantic prodigy, trained in the city to wield the magic of death, full of idealistic ways your gift can be used while being surrounded by people who are just using it for The Worst Possible Reasons.
Important inspirations for Uxaion are Planescape Torment, Hard Wired Island, Cyberpunk 2077 (just the memes), The Locked Tomb, silicon valley excess, fads like ‘AI’ and blockchain and uber app style services, the housing crisis, and the need in the real world for people to be toppled and have their entire worlds burned. In minecraft, there are people who need to burn.
Island Urbanised Independent Micronation, The Spectral City
Uxaion is one city, on a set of islands, spread across a variety of districts. Most people who live there live in the poorer areas, known as ‘Minimal Needs’ Housing, which is to say, just a bit better than a closet in which people store skeletons. The greatest burden of the people in Uxaion is the needs for housing, which, thanks to the island’s hunger for both space to do experiments in and people to do experiments on, puts a lot of living in the city under pressure. As large cities, almost all cultures are extremely common, but particularly of note, in Uxaion, undead characters like Revenants and Necropolitans are much more common.
While Goblins show up everywhere, they are much less common in Uxaion than you’d expect, and often are part of very small family units of only 2-3 Goblins at at time. Abilen traders also regularly visit, but very rarely live in Uxaion, due to its constant night and inclement weather.
Opinions on Uxaion are mixed. They’re absolutely known for their necromancy, and if you know only one thing about the place, it’s that it’s a necrostate. The chain of islands have one large linked city spread across them, with some smaller islands regarded as holding areas or holding housing estates meant for the richest members of the society. You may even know about the way the city has positioned itself, and manipulated the sky, so that it is always night there, somehow.
Uxaion may mean to you, a place of immense magical research, with a great university system and a willingness to engage in complex magic that has been considered ‘too dangerous’ in the past. They’ve done amazing things in the field of medical research, saving and restoring lives, communicating with ghosts, and even undoing magical fallout from terrible curse. You might know Uxaion as a place that normal people can go, and can sign up for amazing projects that may help them cheat death or become fabulously wealthy, in exchange for life force or unique practices.
Uxaion may also mean to you its profile of tall spired towers, full of magical research, and a population of indulgent, reckless undead leaders who are constantly searching for novelties. They’re a place that invents new games and new ways to have fun and tries reckless new things, because they know they’re dead and they know they can be restored.
If you’re from Uxaion you probably know those things are overblown. Yeah, there are the reseachers. Yeah, the rulers of the city, the Necropolitans, are undead. Yeah, there’s a lot of use of ghost energy to power the trains and the lights, and yeah, the undead are common sights across the city. But who isn’t and what isn’t? It’s a city, like a lot of others, built across the water, and full of people who are, generally, just trying to live their lives.
If you live in Uxaion, you are complaining about the rent. You may also be complaining about the latest fad the necromancers are working on because that’s a new thing you’re going to have to hear about that’s going to change everything before they eventually go back to doing the basic three necromancer things of bones, zombies, and ghosts, but much more annoyingly. You are almost certainly overworked and underpaid, and a lot of the things and spaces you would rely on to give you community are limited or under stress. The most common place people gather is a bar, because almost all the park space in the city is private, and almost all the privatised park space has been replaced with necromantic experiment spaces.
You might be on a contract with a necromancer, to give a little of your life force regularly. You may have a postmortem contract lined up, meaning that when you die, you can work off a debt as a resurrected undead. Some of these contracts even split you into a ghost and a zombie, so your two halves can work at the type of labour they can do in the name of working off a debt. Most of these debts are so brutal and set up so predatorially, you may just be working now to pay off the interest. What’s more, you might not have earned the debt directly, and instead inherited it, or had it bequeathed to you by someone gaming a system of legal debt and re-dying.
You might be in a gang. You might have to deal with the city’s most common type of guard, the Response-Incident Patrollers who believe themselves entitled to taking samples of your blood when they inspect you, or the ones who demand you swallow a tooth as a security measure while talking to you. You may live somewhere the RIP don’t operate and have to deal with one of the major research guild’s street guards. You may have a weapon you keep at home to defend yourself because you know you don’t live somewhere nice enough for the two different flavours of watch to protect you. You probably know something that could be valuable to someone, if you just gave up on trying to play by the rules, and be nice.
Lots of people have reason to travel to Uxaion and also to leave Uxaion. Uxaion is one of the most active cities per capita of Adventurers, because a lot of the businesses that work there employ Adventurers’ Guild operators to do work of various types. It’s the step in respectability above gang member, but also crucially, still lets those Adventurers interface with gangs.
Travel to and from Uxaion is by boat, which means that you can be stuck on the islands for a time, based on a transport contract or a holdup in the company managing your ferry. This can make travel to the city relatively easy, but out of it hard. This is not seen as a bug by the city’s administration and more of a feature in case of people trying to leave while still having debts or contracts.
Officially, Uxaion has no ill will with, and no problem with, the Eresh Protectorate. In fact, they’ve floated the idea of applying to become a member of the Eresh Protectorate, and have even at times, documented the paperwork necessary to apply. What they’ve heard in response, before the paperwork was delivered, was that the Eresh Protectorate has never had to refuse an application before, so they better not apply and make themselves the first.
This is because if you’re going to join the Eresh Protectorate, part of what makes it easy is the diverse power base of the Protectorate. Across all its cities, there are basically six major power blocks.
- The Eresh Crown, which is extremely pragmatic and largely amoral in terms of expanding its access to power. They do not care about Uxaion and would view its application acceptably if they could arrange any coalition of other power bases to support it.
- The Tzarumites, who are extremely legal and law driven, and who have a firm policy against necrostates. This is partly ideologically driven (undead icky), but it’s also heavily entwined with the idea that any law written has to be considered precedent. Because of this Tzarumites are extremely reluctant to open any new space in the law code that can’t be done with regulation and control already in place. Any laws passed for operating with necrostate actors would be absolutely not fit for purpose and would not be evident as being so for centuries. Simply put: It’s too hard to make laws for undead state actors.
- The Raguzans, who are libertine and free roaming find the idea of contracts that last beyond death, that people couldn’t escape, as absolutely horrifying. If such individuals fled Uxaion and the Raguzans were asked to recover them, it would be, in their opinion, asking them to be slavetakers. In these negotiations, the Ragauzan Praetor promised that if Uxaion became a member of the Eresh protectorate, their first action would be declare war against it, and win.
- The Lethenites, who are scholarly and extremely focused on magical containment find the Uxaion ideology of revolutionary magical technology irresponsible. Especially, they find the way that Uxaion treats undeath as an all-purpose solution to all problems as untrustworthy. They see the entire city as an ongoing project in playing with Demon Cores, and refuse to sanction it.
- The Chardunists, who are spies and investigators who focus on protecting psychics across the Protectorate. They ostensibly have not voted against Uxaion but have communicated that if Uxaion joined the Protectorate, they would start assassinating people and not stop until they weren’t concerned about the association any more. Basically, Chardunists favour direct action over votes.
- The Church of Olifar, a Catholic-like organisation that’s kind of Pauline Christian in their idea that ‘we would really rather you focus on this’ as a matter of ongoing holiness. Not in the ‘women suck’ way. The Church of Olifar holds that undeath is a moral failing, and while lots of people disagree, they’re a hard no on accepting a necrostate.
So with two potential declarations of war on the books, Uxaion decided not to apply for the Eresh Protectorate. They still consider them a great trading partner and have built ports for Halfling trade ships, but there’s no direct linke Uxaion and the King’s Highway.
The most common thing for Uxaion to export is magical technology. While some of this is pretty obvious, things like cursed weapons, necromantic devices and traps, it’s a much more profitable trade over time to work with businesses in terms of long-term services. Uxaion, bar none, have the absolute best technology in the world for corpse preservation, so Uxaion wizards are hired by large companies and guilds for things like protecting records of the dead or reconstructing data from historical battlefields, while also being used for making meat more widely transportable while fresh.
Uxaion’s systems have even given rise to some really useful services that other countries export and trade for. Resurrecting dead languages through direct consultation with their speakers, healing of extremely challenging injuries through recreation of bone and lost flesh, safe and reliable building materials that can be trusted to not harm an ecology (through bone), Uxaion are doing things that people want to pay for. But also, as a state, most countries don’t directly deal with Uxaion, and prefer to deal with middleperson like the Halfling Trade Houses. Uxaion does trade directly with Seibelmarsh but they have no current access to the Osteon.
They do trade with Visente, with one of the most common things traded between them being day labourers – it’s not uncommon for people from Visente to boat over to Uxaion for a six or nine month contract doing some kind of service job, before heading back to Visente.
What Uxaion needs the most of is raw materials, which given their endless appetite for novelty and constant exploration of stupid ideas kind of makes them a perfect consumer of almost everything. Almost all kinds of farm good gets imported to the island and purchased, and if you want to eat anything that wasn’t made by a necromancer, you’re going to be eating stuff that was imported recently.
And thus Uxaion. It’s a place of contradictions; high tech, no life. It’s important to me to give a place like this room to be both a stable place with legitimate reasons for existing and also a garbage place that any player character would want to avoid, or escape.