In 2008-2010, I collaborated with Victor Hao (an incredible artist) to create two volumes of a graphic novel series, my shonen manga/tabletop mashup King of RPGs (vol 1 and vol 2). It came out after the ‘manga boom’ had peaked (and non-Japanese ‘manga-style’ graphic novels had never benefited even during boomtime, a fact I should have known) and sold terribly in bookstores, though it did great for me in person at conventions. After a few weak attempts at doing a webcomic sequel, I’ve since abandoned it to the graveyard of old story ideas. (At least it appeared in print and had a sort of ending!!)

Looking through old files recently, I discovered a bunch of notes I’d written describing the cosmology of Neo-Pegana, the game universe created by gamemaster Theodore Dudek (for Mages & Monsters, the world’s most famous tabletop RPG) within the universe of King of RPGs. If you can take an imaginary world seriously for the duration of a comic, then why can’t you take an imaginary world within an imaginary world seriously? I had presented some-but-not-all of this in the fanzine King of RPGs: Secrets of Neo-Pegana, but I finally sold out of those, so here I present the background of Theo’s (primary) game universe. This specific text was written as background info for a hypothetical King of RPGs video game, which of course sadly never was completed.



Neo-Pegana is the world of Theodore’s Mages & Monsters campaign as seen in King of RPGs volumes 1 and 2. It’s a dangerous, gritty, swashbuckling world with an African/Middle-Eastern/Central Asian look, a world of vast deserts and deadly jungles.

Neo-Pegana, a world roughly the size of our own, is mostly an arid desert. There are some oases, fertile forests and grasslands, but mostly the world is very dry and getting drier. In the current time – two generations after the Great War of the Inner Lands seen in King of RPGs volume 2 – the world seems to be perilously close to destruction from climate change. The sea level has sunk 100 feet since the Great War, and shrinks more every year. As the ocean shrinks, wrecked ships are exposed on the ocean floor – along with ruins of sunken cities apparently built at a time when the ocean was even lower. There are legends that once the earth was destroyed by a flood, but now, everyone fears that it will be destroyed by drought. The scarcity of water has caused wars and uprisings.

The other great threat to the world is the Plants. Giant plants towering thousands of feet high, these great jungles exist on the edges of the world, slowly growing. The jungle in the shadow of the Plants is wetter than the desert, but it is infested with giant insects and fierce monsters, making it uninhabitable. Year by year, the Plants slowly spread.

The world is flat. If you travel far, far to the edges, things start to get weird and time and space become distorted. You eventually come to a giant wall that towers into the sky, beyond which no one has traveled. But in a few jagged, mountainous places, if you climb to the height of 10 Mount Everests, it is said that you can climb to the top of the Wall. Beyond is an unearthly desert landscape of twisted wood. If you keep traveling, you come to the Edge of the World, where the earth drops away into an infinite jungle, the Jungle of Night, thousands of miles below. And sometimes, from the Edge of the World, you can see Trogool, the ultimate god, Keeper of the Book.

The secret of the world is: Neo-Pegana is a sandbox. Technically, it’s a world based on the sandbox where Theodore used to play when he was younger (as seen in one panel in volume 1). That’s why there is no permanent source of water, and why it is being invaded by massive weeds and grasses; it is a pretty overgrown sandbox. (The sandbox thing is metaphorical, of course; the inhabitants of Neo-Pegana aren’t literally 1 mm tall, else a single drop of rain would destroy one of their cities.) Theodore is Trogool, the ultimate god, but since he went to college he has not had time for his old sandbox creations.

The Gods and Creatures

Trogool, the great god, first made human beings out of metal, but they displeased him. Then he made human beings out of wood, but they displeased him. Then he made human beings out of oil that bubbled up from the earth, and they pleased Trogool. They were much taller and more beautiful than the people of earth today, and when they died their bodies did not decay. But after many aeons, they too displeased Trogool, and he ended the world and took the early humans away to paradise. Finally he made human beings out of animals, and it was good. He placed us in a walled garden rich and fruitful with all the things of the earth, and this is where we live today.

—from the Book of Pegana, the main religious text of Neo-Pegana

Theodore played with metal, wooden and plastic toys in his sandbox. After he got older and went away to college, a few plastic action figures were left in the sandbox, buried in the sand. These abandoned action figures, angry at being left behind, decided that they were gods. Using the power granted to them by Theodore/Trogool, they decided to make creatures in their own image for they, themselves, to play with.

These “gods,” known as Ya, Ha, Snyrg, made life by mutating and evolving animals. They took the kinds of little animals that lived in Theodore’s overground sandbox—insects, lizards, snakes—and evolved them into all kinds of forms, including humanoid ones. Their goal was to make creatures like themselves, but their initial efforts were imperfect. They created lizard people, snake people, beetle people, cricket people, frog people and so on. But by killing and killing, the three gods’ creations could be perfected; and over time, the most aggressive and warlike of these races started to spontaneously evolve into new shapes closer to that of the bloodthirsty Ya, Ha and Snyrg. These ‘civilized’ races were known as humans, and (over the many cycles of drought and flood) they soon forgot that they were descended from the barbaric animals. The Azirites and Toldeeans of today do not know that their ancestors were the feared snake men and scorpion men, although they still venerate the snake and scorpion as totems.

There were two other action figures buried in the sand as well. One was Yam, the dragon, an action figure older than the rest, who Theodore used to use to bash the sandcastles and the other action figures. Instead of evolving existing animals, it split off bits of its own plastic and put its power into them, creating dragons. This is why each dragon has a pearl of solidified oil or coal tar inside it, and why dragons are beasts of fire and metal and destruction. The other action figure was Belzoond, an old cotton-velveteen doll that one of Theodore’s friends had left in the sandbox during a birthday party. Since it was made of cotton (unlike plastic like Ya, Ha, Snyrg and the Dragon) it made life forms from plants, creating elves, gnomes and halflings. But these races became overconfident, decadent and evil, and were eventually surpassed by humans.

Today, despite the loss of a few of the original races (such as orcs, who were all wiped out by the other races), there are many strange creatures in Neo-Pegana. Most of the life forms are enlarged versions of insects and microscopic life, such as giant rotifers, tardigrades and bugs of various sorts. (The works of Ernst Haeckel have great inspiration: ) Others are weird versions of ‘normal’ animals like camels, horses, cows and sheep, which were made by Ya, Ha, Snyrg and Belzoond from their imagination of what those animals should look like, having only heard of them, not seen them. Neo-Pegana is also occasionally troubled by invaders from other worlds: the terrible ants and other things which dig up from the infinite underground (since the sandbox has no solid bottom), the giant worms and evil creatures like the Hounyhyms which live among the Plants (i.e. the lawn), and even beings such as the birdlike Gibbelins, which dwell far away beyond the night sky, in the Tree of Heaven.

The Religion

The main gods of Neo-Pegana, Ya, Ha and Snyrg, are all worshipped mostly through idols. Since the gods themselves are plastic, they prefer their idols to be made of plastic, but it is a rare material. Very rarely, the gods can also possess people and turn them into their avatars, like the snake man who was possessed by Ya and turned into the focus of a new religious cult, Yaldabaoth the Thrice-Wounded.

One of the few things most of the Neo-Peganans agree on is their religious texts. These texts are seven books based on books Theodore was reading at the time and named his campaign world after, the works of Lord Dunsany (1878-1957):,_18th_Baron_of_Dunsany

The Books of Neo-Pegana

The Book of Time

The Book of the Gods

The Book of Welleran

The Book of Dreams

The Book of Wonder

The Last Book of Wonder

The Book of 51 Tales

Although these cryptic texts actually describe things which did not take place in Neo-Pegana, the inhabitants believe that they did, and they have mostly named themselves (and their world) after things from the books. (NOTE: As far as I can tell, the works of Lord Dunsany are out of copyright, which is why I’ve ‘paid tribute’ to them in King of RPGs, the same way that people use names from H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos stories. If there’s any doubt, though, we can just subtly change the names.) The tales have been passed down through oral tradition and have changed a lot in the process. However, it is said that the original books exist somewhere, buried under the ocean waves and desert sands, and that one day the seven books will be discovered and the gods will rise and all of the good people of Neo-Pegana will ascend to heaven.

This end-of-the-world prophecy is the core plot of the video game. As the ocean shrinks, various factions start to seek out the books to cause the end of the world. The heroes must race against time to stop the villains from getting all the magic books, like G.I. Joe racing against Cobra in an old G.I. Joe cartoon from the ’80s. Meanwhile, they must also find a source of water and save the world from death by drought. And of course, to do all this, they must go to the End of the World. ***