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Join the original creators of Ultima Underworld on a 
quest to rekindle this legendary fantasy RPG series.
Join the original creators of Ultima Underworld on a quest to rekindle this legendary fantasy RPG series.
13,987 backers pledged $860,356 to help bring this project to life.

Time for a few Magic Tricks

Posted by OtherSide Entertainment (Creator)

We wanted to do a deeper dive into one of the core game systems in Underworld Ascendant, magic. Can’t have a fantasy game without magic!

Magic in Underworld Ascendant springs from the original Underworlds. As with the originals, magic is built on rune stones. Scattered around the Abyss is an alphabet of rune stones, each inscribed with a runic letter. The Avatar discovers these stones as they explore the Abyss, over time building a vocabulary of spells.

To cast a spell, the player lays outs particular combinations of stones. For instance, the pair of stones IN LOR casts a dim magic light. A much more powerful version of this spell using 3 rune stones, VAS IN LOR, casts the brightness of daylight. Learning new spell combinations is part of the fun. You feel as if you are growing in arcane knowledge --- which of course you are!

Underworld Ascendant explores a new dimension of runic magic. As players master the lore they will uncover hidden powers, and learn how to magically transform their runes. For instance, a mage might learn how to transfigure the runes for a Fireball, POR FLAM, to enlarge its blast radius. As the mage’s knowledge deepens, to make the Fireball dance around the chamber, seeking out each nearby foe in turn. Or perhaps instead, to burn with a violet aura, which clings to foes longer and with more terrible effect. Ultimately, a mage can craft their own repertoire of unique and powerful runes.

Spells in Underworld Ascendant are also far more diverse than the standard RPG variations on “blast your foe”. There is magic that will aid in your being stealthy, alert you to a variety of dangers, let you levitate or fly, bar a door, to name just a few. These more diverse non-combat spells feed right into the Improvisation Engine, giving spell casters all sorts of clever approaches to solve challenges.

Speaking of spell casters, any Avatar can learn to wield at least some magic. A player focused on, say, combat skills, will never become master of the magical arts. However, they can still learn to cast some less powerful spells if they choose.


Over a 100 suggestions to rename the Tunnel Trapper have been submitted by fans. Some quite descriptive, some funny, some embarrassing. Of these, we choose Baal’s clever nomination of Earthclot. The name says it all!

Speaking of fan submissions, we could not resist sharing SteveC’s fan art on an interpretation of the 3 factions, Underworld 1992 style!

Keep the art coming!

Finally, a reminder that this Wednesday from 3-5 pm ET we will be running the second in our series of OtherSide plays LookingGlass Twitch sessions, this time playing the classic System Shock 2:

Adam Sessler will be our host, joined by some very special guests. Come join the fun!

The Team at OtherSide


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    1. Missing avatar

      deleted on

      This user's account has been deleted.

    2. Missing avatar

      sev | AoUA on

      Love this update! It means mages will be really using their art, and not just doing the same with the runes as everybody else only with more power.

      Since I don't usually opt for a spellcaster character, because I ejoy a more mechanical approach (and this game promises extra interesting mechanics anyway), means I'm already looking forward to play this game a second time ;D

    3. Paul Pousson on

      That's the one thing I hate in rpg's,.. runes for casting spells or doing anything. Except for underworld I was never a big fan of Ultima. Take Might and magic any-day. Better to find spellbooks and learn spells than chasing runes and herbs all over the place :(

    4. Missing avatar

      Dustweaver on

      A 'contingency' rune slot would be cool to separate mages from non-casters in terms of spellcasting utility.

      In Zelazny's The Chronicles of Amber, he discusses a system for pre-casting and then 'hanging' more complex spells, leaving only the final step of the casting to 'complete' them and removing the need to go through the entire process when someone's swinging a sword at you, etc. This seems like the sort of thing that a dedicated sorcerer would invest in, especially if 'winding up' the more powerful spells involves more runes (and therefore takes longer).

      I think the idea is fantastic. I'd like to see dedicated wizards not just have more powerful spell options/combinations available, though. I'd really like to see more utility and 'quality of life' ideas that make spell-casting more efficient, frequent, and adaptable for the studied user, instead of just a linear increase in 'power'.

    5. Logan on

      Earthclot sounds fun and i couldn't think of anything good so never posted.
      Glad to hear more about magic runes. Will they all be quick to cast or will there be a book/setup time that you maybe have to scribe and have only a few "hot" all the time?

    6. Christopher Tremblay on

      In regards to the upcoming stream - I'd really suggest testing your setup prior to. This includes making sure sound levels are good, as well as all sound sources being captured properly - and not sounding like you're using a potato. ^_^

    7. Missing avatar

      Delfofthebla on

      I am someone that never got to play the actual Underworld games back in the day.

      But I did play Arx Fatalis. I have heard that Arx is very closely related to Underworld, and I guess that's why this system already feels pretty familiar to me.

      However, I have a question. Can we expect to see a spell casting system similar to Arx Fatalis, or did the older Underworld games handle it differently? The Arx Fatalis system was one of my favorites that I have ever had the pleasure to experience in a game, but I have not seen anything like it again since then.

      How will the actual "system" of casting spells work in Underworld Ascendent?

    8. T.J. Brumfield on

      Ultimately the magic in Ultima VIII was a chore because it required so many steps, but I really liked that there multiple types of magic.

      I think Arx Fatalis had an interesting system of magic with drawing glyphs.

      I think it might be interesting if each faction had their variation of magic with a different mechanic (combining runes, drawing glyphs, maybe something else?)

    9. Missing avatar

      LobsterMobster on

      Earthclot is pretty great.