Through Ultan’s Door #1

Like A Thousand Thousand Islands, much of the appeal of Through Ultan’s Door (this is issue one, 2019) comes from the act of reading it. Where ATTI often feels like poetry, TUD reminds me of the prose-poems of Clark Ashton Smith. They share a similar narcotic quality. That makes it a bit difficult to write about though — anything I say isn’t going to convey the actual experience.

Still, I’ve got to give it a shot, because I love these things and y’all need to check them out. TUD is an OSR zine series by Ben Laurence, illustrated by a number of different artists. His art direction is spot on — the art is varied but hits the dreamy vibe every time. The artist Huargo is the real stand-out here for me.

The idea here is that a door appeared in Ultan’s basement and it leads to the sewers of the dream/nightmare city of Zyan. Specifically, you come out in the ruins of a place called the Inquisitor’s Theater. Everything about is compelling and repellent in equal parts. There are lots of paths through the complex, lots to explore, lots of factions to interact with. Again, hard to do it justice, though the oneiric pudding is maybe a perfect example of what TUD offers. Like the classic puddings of D&D, this is a sort of hungry blob, but it is made of the run-off of dreams. It uses powerful dream imagery to bait its pray, creating phantasmal tableau that lure sentients in range of attack. When killed, it dissolves into a stream of symbolic imagery.

As delightfully strange as all this is, it is really only prologue to the rest of the series.

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