Bright Journeys on the Back of the World-Bird

A World-Building Project for Roleplaying and Story Creation

by John Hughes & Friends

I had in my hands a substantial fragment of the complete history of an unknown planet, with its architecture and its playing cards, its mythological terrors and the sounds of its dialects, its emperors and its oceans, its minerals, its birds and its fishes, its algebra and its fire, its theological and metaphysical arguments …

—Jorge Luis Borges, ‘Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius’.

There are myths that enslave women and men, and myths that set them free.

— Tulsi-ra, The Third Aja.


In every Age an Aja of Joy, and in every Age a dark Hero of sorrows. In every Age an Aja of Change, and in every Age a demon Hero who destroys. Yet the choice between Ajahood and herodom can be decided in the fall of a blade, the tone of a single word. And even in a world of peace, there can be some things even more terrible than war …

Beneath many-coloured On, the unmoving sun, the world of Ontolosna wings forward on the back of the World-Bird. Queens and traders and theagyns and daki ni seek to guide the fate of empires and peoples. But all know that history is ending. Who will be the Aja of this Age? And will her Awakening once more tear the world apart?

Ontolosna beckons

Welcome to the Bright Journey Project, and to the world of Ontolosna. Ontolosna is a shared fantasy roleplaying and storytelling project. A long-time personal obsession, it is now being developed under a Creative Commons License as a communal vision.

Ontolosna is a progressive realm of female power where violent warfare is comparatively rare, and where humans create and direct their deities in massive Theagyn (‘goddess birthing’) rituals. Ontolosna’s cultural analogues are North Asian in inspiration—Tibet, India, Korea, China, Japan—and the project’s design aims are to question and explore notions of gender construction, religion, myth, violence and social change in a game environment with a particular eye to the nuances of genre. Ontolosna is equally utopian and dystopian in its portrayal of the various peoples who live beneath the ever-changing eye of On, the Great Lantern.

Ontolosna is part creative dream, part desire to look with fresh eyes and a questioning mind, part fantasy ethnography, and part adventure campaign, but mainly it is a response to the call of a rich and wondrous story demanding to be told.

These web pages are our initial  reference and discussion point. PDF chapters of the Creators’ Guides are now available. A demonstration game called ‘Falling Water, Blinking Suns’, was run at Phenomenon 2010. The world is revealing itself before our eyes.

Our inspirations for Ontolosna include The Journey to the West, The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, The Clear Mirror and the great Hindu religious epics, all in both their original glory and in myriad reinterpretations from novel to film to anime and comic.


Mountain Breaks Storm contains a brief introduction to the Ontolosnan adventure. On the Back of the World-Bird describes the three suns, the nature of time and other basic ontological facts. Seven Aji of Progress introduce the human and animal Aji, the movers and shakers of Ontolosnan history. Kut: Building Gods (still in early draft) describes the key Kut (‘deities’ or powers). The Four Giftings lists the basic types of religious and spiritual traditions, from shamanism to god-building. Guidebooks and maps contains maps, higher resolution charts, spreadsheets, and PDF creator guides. Resources will continue to grow as more materials are transcribed.

Ontolosna is an eternal work in progress. Come join the Bright Journey.

Please Note: Ontolosna is a speculative world of fantasy. It derives inspiration from the rich religious traditions of eastern Asia, particularly those of Tibet, Korea and India, and seeks to treat these sources with respect. However, religious traditions in Ontolosna should never be confused with those of the real world.

Legal Bits

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Australia License.

Ontolosna is copyright © John Hughes, 2004-2014.

  1. After all those years, I still hope there will be more stuff about Ontolosna released to the public… 😉

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