The Transdimensional City of Uru Ulan

Dimension travel gives heroes some weird options; they can see “what if” storylines where their world took a turn for the better, or worse. They can see worlds where the physical laws are different, and meet people from the past and future. Dimension travel stories are perfect for presenting heroes with philosophical questions, the kinds of things that require more than fists and laser blasts to solve. And when the heroes get one world shaped up and on track, there are still plenty more worlds in need of some justice!


This is not intended as an exhaustive list of every setting in media that explores a city with heavy dimension travel, just the ones that inspired me.

  • A few comics explore dimension travel in great detail. The classic Grimjack comic took place in an interdimensional city called Cynosure (I cannot recommend this comic highly enough).
  • The first big storyline in Excalibur was the Crosstime Caper.
  • The DC story and animated movie Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths is a classic for exploring what happens when heroes meet their evil opposites.
  • Anime has more than a few examples; one madcap great is Magical Shopping Arcade Abenonashi.
  • Gaming has provided us with a lot of fantastic transdimensional settings as well, including the city of Sigil in AD&D’s Planescape..
  • There’s also the war-torn worlds of Rifts, beset by links to many different worlds.
  • Finally, everyone should read Roger Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber series.
  • Clive Barker’s Imajica is weird, wonderful, and terrifying.
  • The Quantum Entanglement Bar and other establishments like it also owe a great debt to the Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon novels by Spider Robinson.

Naming of the City

Uru Ulan is a bastardization of the Sumerian words “Uru U-La-En”. This means “City Everything Eternity”, or colloquially, “City of all Space and Time”.

The Founding of the City

No one knows his original name, but the sorcerer goes by the name Ensi Abgal now. Believed to have been born in the city of Sumer during the Bronze Age, Ensi Abgal was obsessed with godhood. A master alchemist, he discovered the elixir of immortality, and strange secrets of time and space from fragments of the Tome of Dark Glories, but it wasn’t enough for him.

A powerful sorcerer is always distracted by the concerns of “inferiors”. Ensi Abgal scouted far and wide in astral form for a safe location, far away, where he could conduct his experiments. One location after another was abandoned as rivals, enemies, and supplicants found their way to him. Finally, he created a permanent, hidden portal to a hollow asteroid in the rings of Saturn, and after creating magical wards that created a safe environment, he brought his servants to his new base of operations.

But he needed supplies for his experiments, so his servants had to journey back. And the number of servants began to grow. Ensi Abgal’s apprentices, learning some of their master’s time magic, traveled through history, saving people from natural disasters and bringing them to the city. Ensi Abgal also created magical golems called servitors to keep the city’s mechanomagical systems in good repair, and commissioned a guild of specialized magitechnicians to work on the city’s many portals and gates.

Ensi Abgal ignores the city for the most part, and that’s had some consequences. As the city grew, his many servants fell to squabbling. He cloned himself a dozen or so times, told his clones to keep the city running, and went back to his experiments. This “solution” only made matters worse, as the clones, imbued some of their creator’s sorcerous knowledge, fell to fighting over the city. The clones were all imperfect, most filled with greed, rage, and overwhelming ambition.

Their plots extended to other worlds, as well. The Ordo Custodes Noctis, and their elite Damocletian Guard, discovered numerous threats emanating from the city. After squashing one conspiracy after another fostered in the city’s darker side, the OCN offered to patrol the city and keep order, an offer that was quickly accepted. This secret fraternal esoteric brotherhood became beat cops and hardboiled detectives in the weirdest city in the Cosmos. They were largely ineffective against the clones, but at least they brought a measure of stability to the caustic madhouse the city became for a time.

But the OCN has its own traitors. A dark sorcerer named Garvin Santos was trained in the city’s Academia Esoterica, before he joined the OCN. Assigned to watch the clone Alexei Boris Galitsin, instead they became friends and learned dark magics from stolen pages of the Tome of Dark Glories. Their attempt to take control of the city failed, and, pursued by the OCN, the two destroyed an entire District before they were driven out. The twisted magics corrupted that entire District, and in the end, the servitors simply walled off that section and left it abandoned, a hole of misery for the plague-ridden, decrepit, insane, and poor.

The decades that followed brought long slow reconstruction. The clone Abigail Enzo returned to the city from Earth, and was chosen as Regent by the city’s Resource Council when she found she could control the servitors. Her reign went well until the Mirror War.

No one knows how it all started. In the infinite number of possible worlds, there would have to be innumerable duplicates of Uru Ulan, of course. Inevitably, trade talks would break down with some, and eventually, hostilities would break out. Each copy of the city was the hub of trade and culture for a hundred dimensions, and had as many allies as enemies, and so the war tore a frightful scar across the many Realms. In the end, after decades of exhausting and inconclusive war, the Ordo Custodes Noctis negotiated an addition to their Firmament Treaty that forbade the cities from making open war even again. And the Treaty has worked, to some extent. But intrigue roils beneath the surface, and Uru Ulan is, as always, itself held together by the most tenuous of fibers.

Uru Ulan Today

From the outside, Uru Ulan looks like a series of pressure domes, space stations, and magically-fortified free-floating castles, all adrift in Saturn’s rings, linked by gravity beams, uttersteel chains, rainbow bridges, and ultra-tech umbilicals. Magic-powered sailing ships, hyperspace starships, and wierder conveyances buzz to and fro around the city, to the Arcturus Spaceport and the Langobard East India Company docks in Ljusalfheim.

The city of Uru Ulan is divided into a number of Districts, based on what region its inhabitants came from. Each District is a mishmash of other cultures and technological levels. The two dozen Districts include:

  • Arcturus Starport, futuristic and alien, run by the enigmatic Arcturians,
  • Buyuk Carsi, the Arabic and Persian bazaar, with more portals and gateways than any other District,
  • Ljusalfheim, Elvish and ancient European, home to the Academia Esoterica and the spell-sailing docks,
  • Kyoto Palace, Japanese and Korean, both ancient and modern, home of Proto Kyoto Academy,
  • New Kowloon, Chinese and Mongolian, home of The Kwoon,
  • The Temple of Gilgamesh, AKA “The Ziggurat,” the city’s capitol, Babylonian and Sumerian,
  • Theban Ammon, Egyptian, home to the Clone Makers of Osiris,
  • Third York, European and American, home to Mutant Town,
  • The Ruined Quarter is walled-off and abandoned, full of the Ichor Plague and chaotic magical energy.
  • The Undercity is almost as massive as the rest of the city, full of sewage and pipes transporting water, electricity, and magical power to any location that needs it.
  • Several other minor Districts exist as well, including an Indian District (Vedic and Mughal) and the Estates District (full of the insufferably rich, from Victorian England to the Florida Keys).

The city is patrolled by a group of sorcerers and magical creatures called the Ordo Custodes Noctis, who seem to be a version of the Order of the Shadow Vigil from another world. Magical golems called servitors travel throughout the city, cleaning, repairing, and maintaining, and the Portalwrights’ Guild makes new gateways and maintains the existing ones (although the Guild’s goblins often get bored and make gateways to random worlds in undocumented locations, out of pure mischief).

Aside from the destruction of the Ruined Quarter, the toughest time the city’s had was the Mirror War. Hundreds of different alternate versions of Uru Ulan banded together to wipe the city out, and for the first time, the city raised an army and forged defense alliances. The carnage was terrible, and lasted for more than a century. Even now, the mirror cities of Omnipolis and a few others still engage in piracy and espionage against Uru Ulan.

A Few Important Locations

Annex 37 started out as an intelligence and counter-terrorism agency on a world long since destroyed. They built a massive base in Kyoto Palace, where they sell their services to the highest bidder. They obtained massive robot battlesuits called LuciFrames, which were a vital component of the city’s defenses during the Mirror War.

The Academia Esoterica is the greatest magical academy on any world. Based in Ljusalfheim District, the magical academy is closely allied with the Ordo Custodes Noctis, increasingly so since their former student Garvin Santos turned the clone Alexei Galitsin to evil and destroyed a sizable chunk of the city.

There are a number of fighting schools in Uru Ulan, but only one deserves to be called “The Kwoon.” Fighters, warriors, and heroes from every world come here to learn esoteric arts unknown back home, like Twelve Celestial Dragons Kung Fu.

In the Great Bazaar in the Buyuk Carsi District, you can find almost anything. Sure, weapons of interdimensional destruction are prohibited, but if you ask around and flash enough money, someone is sure to know a guy who knows a guy … Planar Nomads on horses, camels, riding scorpions, dune buggies, and hovercraft wander into the Great Bazaar through massive stone archway portals from the dozens of worlds, carrying goods of every description.

The Necropolis is, despite its name, the greatest hospital in the city. The enormous, onyx pyramid in Theban Ammon is a temple to life, death, and life after death, by means of modern medicine, spiritual meditation, and cloning. Founded by an Egyptian student of Ensi Abgal’s, who helped his master create Abigail Enzo, Alexei Galitsin, and the sorcerer’s other duplicates. Most citizens don’t go in for the Ammonite teachings, but they’re happy to pay big bucks for a cloned body, to allow them to live on after death.

The Quantum Entanglement bar in Third York is run by Trance, who used to be known as Sirocco, on Earth-Omega. An Afghanistani woman, she emigrated to the U.S., even becoming a member of Patriot Force, before she betrayed them (and her lover Rattlesnake) to join the Perfected Ones. She volunteered for the Helix Treatments, that seemed to remove her powers permanently, and she was rejected and turned loose on the surface. She discovered new powers a few weeks later, powers of dimensional travel and power leeching, and she soon found Uru Ulan and founded the bar. Quantum Entanglement is Casa Blanca for metahumans; heroes and villains of all kinds come here to relax, gossip, and spar a little in the arena. Trance can inhibit anyone’s powers if they cause trouble, but she wonders what will happen when C.H.I.M.E.R.A. finds out her true identity and reports it to their new Director.

Some of the City’s Secrets

The city’s current Regent (ruler) is Abigail Enzo, alongside a Resource Council composed of representatives from every city District.  She’s one of a dozen or so of Ensi Abgal’s clones, created by the sorcerer to keep its numerous squabbling factions in line. She claims to be Abgal’s daughter, but is actually a “flawed” clone that turned out female. Strangely, she’s the only clone that the city’s servitors will obey. She also seems to be the only one that really wants what’s best for the city. Most of the clones are selfish and short-sighted, and one even gave into dark powers that ended with the destruction of the Ruined Quarter.

The reptilian Lameki designed four huge thaumatronic constructs on Earth-Omega, when they were abruptly defeated and forced to leave. These Armageddon Knights were never finished, but legend and prophecy states that the Lameki would return one day, activate them, and destroy our world. Ensi Abgal knew that is city would need a power source, so he took one of these monumental doomsday weapons with him to Uru Ulan. The inhabitants of the city would sleep much less soundly if they knew that an almost-unstoppable death robo-golem provided their city with its power.

The city’s most successful spies are the ones no one pays attention to. The Arcturans that run the starport seem like a race of blue-skinned, simple-minded drones, but in truth, they all chare a hivemind. The city’s Regent can spy through the eyes of any servitor. The Portalwrights’ Guild have the ability to go anywhere in the city to work on the high-tech dimensional portal generators and the magical summoning circles, and they often see (and report) things others miss. Finally, if you enter the Ruined Quarter and find the Selz-Mor SuperStore(tm), go to the cafeteria. Stand at the cash register, and order a butterscotch pudding. You’ll see all the ghosts that hang out here, and you can listen to their chatter as they share the secrets of the living they pick up on throughout the city, from the salubrious to the unconscionable.

The ones that would love to know about the Armageddon Knight are the Eschaton Crusade. Troubled by the evil and suffering on every world, these misguided philosophers want to destroy every universe and create a new one, free of pain and fear. Led by the strange creature Abothacaudes, who pays dimensional explorers good money for the location of Imprimatur Seeds, the seeds of new universes, in the gaps between dimensions.

The city has its own super hero team … if you want to call them that. The Freedom Legion are led by Doctor Freedom, an alternate version of Captain Freedom. People that know Dr. Freedom realize that, despite his team’s popularity, they’re a lot more concerned with glory and publicity than with actually keeping the streets safe. The Ordo Custodes Noctis tolerates Dr. Freedom’s group for now, while trying to minimize the collateral damage they inevitably inflict.

The city’s most powerful family is House Veracruz. The family reached their height of power through trade and political machinations, but few realize that those with the Veracruz lineage can walk to other worlds on their own, because of their demon blood. The House is closely tied to the underworld organization known as the Continuum Consortium.

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