Mycolony – Branj Inlii (Braynj In-lee)
In strange corners of the Ninth World clusters of unnatural enormous fungi grow. Some reach twisting tendrils to the sky, others cover broad swaths, blooming in subterranean labyrinths, across deserts, through jungles, dotting wasted voids, surviving on frozen tundra and other less traveled vistas. Fungi are very versatile and not all fungi require dark wet environments to thrive as we generally encounter or imagine. Regardless, the mycolonies that have spawned within these areas prosper when left to their own evolution.
Learned scholars and Aeon priests coined the term “mycolony” to describe these behemoths. The size of a colony will vary based on it’s maturity, the resources available to it and the space in which it has to grow. These spore laden colossi rarely exceed the size or mass of a Titanothaur, towering up to several hundred feet in height and/or breadth. There are literally over one hundred thousand plus known, and possibly a million plus fungi and mold species suspected to exist today. Therefore, there is no lack of descriptive material from which to draw upon from open sources. It is most likely that there are considerably more, if one includes genetically engineered, extra- and ultra-terrestrial species, that might be transplanted to a future Ninth World. A final description of a mycolony can draw into consideration its colour(s), shape, texture, structural make up, size, preferred environment, motility, and toxicology or nutritional value (at least to humans and other creatures). A wide variety of other considerations or preferences might help a GM choose one species over another when browsing open source materials, and then there is always mix and match, as well as imagination. As a GM, if you are going for atmosphere, either whimsical, weird or horrific, there are plenty of online resources and imagery to help you pick something appropriate to the mood you wish to set. Immediate examples that come to mind include Bleeding Tooth, Starfish and Basket fungus.
Description: A large oblate sphere crests on the horizon, it is too difficult to tell it’s true size from this distance but the unhealthy yellow-orange mottled tint of the behemoth becomes immediately obvious in the high noon sun. There is also just a hint of an unfamiliar odour. As you crown the next hill, it becomes obvious that you have come upon a huge fungus surrounded by many smaller forms of the same species, and you spy even more…
A mycolony will rarely spring up close to a major population centre, but will usually be within a few days reach of some form of habitation or a somewhat traveled route. The going will not be easy for adventurers trying to reach one. Mycolonies usually “root” in areas that take advantage of their surrounding terrain and other local features that may add to their defence. Even rooting in a hostile, barren desert for example, where their inhabitants can spot approaching intruders from a long way off. It should be expected that individuals attempting to approach a colony should encounter at least a few rough or hazardous types of terrain along the way and one or more other interesting intrusions or exotic creatures.
The inhabitants of these colonies, if they ever mention it at all, refer to the entirety of their colony, including themselves only as “Branj.” Some Branj differ, one from another, depending on the spore (gene stock) used to seed them. In general, when compared to each other and depending on the fungal spore used, no two Branj are alike. It is very common that the fungal inhabitants match the biological make up of their Branj.
NPC: Marto – Dusty, rough and tumble level 4 Aeon Priest with a broad interest in ecology (level 5), and more specific knowledge of molds and fungus (level 6). Can be used as an academic resource originating from either a larger centre or as a hermetic specialist based out of some remote aldeia. Most likely to be found in the field, observing a Branj or collecting specimens in proximity to one. It is likely that Marto will share an observation with the PCs upon becoming more familiar with them, like the fact that there has been an increase in the size, number and occurrence of Branj popping up over the the many years in which they have been studied. After years of dedicated research Marto has yet to discover the deepest secrets of the Branj but suspects that the Branj are far more sinister than they act or appear.
Rumor: The Ausren Woods are actually infected with a rust or smut that might be related to the Branj.
GM Intrusion: On approaching a Branj, the PCs note that the ground they walk upon occasionally becomes spongy, even though it’s surface has not changed to look at it. It remains covered in inches to a foot of drit, rock fragments, leafy forest floor, or whatever is appropriate to the chosen environment. There is an underlying growth or tendril network spreading out from a nearby Branj. If the PCs ignore the offered intrusion, nothing further happens. If they choose to accept the intrusion, the large sheet or tubular tendril will start interacting with them by sprouting a small fungal trail in their wake or similar such occurrence. At most, it reaches hundreds of hair-like tendrils to any point where the PCs contact the ground, with the tendrils squelching off the soles of their feet or footwear as they walk anywhere in vicinity of the Branj network. If the PCs dig to explore below the surface and trace the tendril network, it may react in return, how is up to the GM. This is again intended to provide some atmosphere and to create a sense of discomfort for the players. Play it up as you wish.
Tags: Roots, tendrils, fungus, creepy, Branj, approach warning system.
On closer approach or when entering a Branj, interlopers will note the obliviousness or non-confrontational demeanor of most Branj dwellers as the strange fungal inhabitants go about their alien day-to-day routine, tending to each other and the Branj. On the other hand, more detailed and prolonged observation of the Branj will reveal a different story. In a typical white fungi Branj, such as Branj Inlii, interlopers might encounter the following range of inhabitants. Please feel free to design inhabitants of your own, including little flying evil fungal sprites and pixies, if it works for your adventure or scenario:
Branj Drone (Pulp) 2(6)
Drones typically appear as asexual white humanoid figures of human size with some species of fungal mass or spore as a head. Base body forms and colours may vary from one Branj to another, based on the gene stock of each respective Branj, but are generally uniform within any given colony. Drones may be “shorn,” where the fungal mass of their bodies has been recently harvested. These busy themselves about the Branj with their lean, near skeletal mass balancing their fungal spore heads. Alternatively, they might be near-sessile, corpulent figures waiting to be harvested, but most likely anything in between. Drones, also know as pulps, survive and grow by absorbing nutrients from their immediate surroundings, they then rest regularly to convert their harvest into the incessant fungal growth that sags from their frames. There are at least 100 drones located at any given Branj, possibly upwards of 200 or 300 at a particularly productive Branj location.
Motive: To provide sustenance to the Branj.
Environment: Maximum range of long distance from the outer perimeter of their parent fungal mass or Branj.
Health: 6 to 12 (shorn vs. corpulent) 9 on average.
Damage Inflicted: 2
Movement: Short when shorn, otherwise immediate.
Modifications: (Optional) add 1 point of armour if a more challenging adversary is required or if attacking a very corpulent drone. Drones might also have armour matching the Branj colony structure. If not armoured, a drone might also regenerate 1 health per round unless attacked by fire, electrical, corrosive, fungicide or other similar attack that would most reasonably affect a fungus. They are always unaffected by mental attacks. There is a possibility of drones emitting toxic fluids or spores at a GMs discretion or as a GM intrusion depending on the toxicology of the Branj (see Branj Heart below).
Combat: Drones will generally retreat if attacked and will not initiate combat. They are simple creatures under control of the Branj. They can attack singly but are much more prone to swarm, dragging anyone unfortunate enough to be overwhelmed back to the Branj to be “tempered” in the furnace. If they must commit to combat they will swarm in increasing group increments of 5 until they overcome an opponent, adding two steps to their level as a swarm at each increment of five, ten, fifteen, etc.
Interaction: It is futile to attempt any form of meaningful interaction with a Branj drone. If they fall under attack by a superior force the crucible will recall all inhabitants back into the Branj. Drones first, followed by others.
Use: Detailed observation of a Branj will reveal that drones are temporarily immobilized by harvesters before the fungal mass is shorn off their frames. A fool-hardy soul could conceivably acquire a sample of fungal tissue from a drone without setting off a colony-wide alarm by collecting at the same time as a harvester or by simulating the harvester’s ritual of temporarily freezing the drone and then extracting the tissue as desired. Any fungal mass that is acquired “might be edible to human or other species” but would require specialized knowledge of fungus or proper test apparatus to be certain, and even then… There are no other meaningful interactions to be had with a Branj drone. They continually make weird movements, trace or amble strange pathways and do other bizarre things all day, looking to slowly absorb nutrients from their immediate environment using their spore head, body, limbs and other unseemly appendages, they then process these nutrients into new tissue.
GM Intrusion: Once in the confines of the Branj, one of the first mindless drones that the PCs come across takes a very particular interest in one specific PC. If the intrusion is rejected nothing more happens than the drone following them for a bit then losing interest and carrying on in its daily duties around the Branj. Otherwise, the mindless drone dogs the targeted PC by continually feeling out or sensing the very ground upon which that PC walks or anything that the PC comes into contact with. This should become quite disconcerting to the PCs, but in reality probably means nothing in the big scheme of things.
Eventually, have the creature seem like it is stalking the PC to the point that it wants to sample them directly by continually extending tendrils, feelers, a spongy palpitating probe or some other bizarre extremity to “taste” or sense the PC. It might also leave behind a dusty coat of spores, slimes or other matter on the PC, their equipment and clothing if the PC allows this sort of activity. In general, this should all be harmless and is intended to create added atmosphere.
At the point that the players decide to do something rash against the offending drone, have it lose interest and shamble away to return to its daily routine. If the PCs successfully attack the drone have the alert level of the colony raised accordingly. Aside from the XP issued, the GM may, if they feel that the play of this intrusion has sufficiently discomforted the players in general, bless or afflict the targeted PC with some fungal-based temporary advantage (asset) or disadvantage (weakness) while in line-of-sight of the Branj.
Tags: Drone, fungus, creepy, Branj, monitoring system.
NPC: Doyo – level 3 apothecary. A wiry, shady, weasel-like excuse of a human being. Doyo surreptitiously harvests and concocts poisons for an assortment of unnamed clients (stealth and knowledge of poisons at level 7). Doyo will be very leery of direct dealings with PCs and will not appreciate their presence at the Branj. Doyo will evade any contact but may check out the PCs at a more convenient time or location to determine the threat the PCs pose.
Rumour: Some of the best quality Mycos to be had in the Ninth World likely originates from pristine colonies, like the Branj, and not from the filth ridden streets of Hidden Naresh (pg. 178 Numenera core book). Also refer to the Hidden Naresh broadcast by Vaux the Jack at The Signal (http://numenerathesignal.blogspot.ca/2013/10/signal-8-hidden-naresh.html)
Branj Envoy (Gyre) 3(9)
Typically appears as a wiry, neuter, hairless, slate-toned humanoid figure of roughly human size with a slightly over-sized head and large unblinking inhuman eyes. Basic morphologies and tones may vary from one to another, and no two are exactly alike. Coloration can deviate between off-white to dark grey-green tones being matte to shiny, but their skin is always smooth and leathery. They range in size from five to eight feet (1.5m to 2.5m) in height. Far more complex than drones, envoys or gyres, are capable of directly interacting with intruders and defending the interests of the Branj. There are typically 1d6 envoys per 100 drones.
Motive: To inquire, search, scout, acquire and occasionally confound.
Environment: Any environment.
Damage Inflicted: 4
Modifications: Speed defence as level 4 due to their lithe bodies and agility. Stealth as level 5 when engaging their visual distortion field. Envoys might also be inclined to use cyphers in combat, especially those related to freezing, electricity, biological or mental attacks.
Combat: Capable of attack if pressed, gyres prefer to protect themselves first. They will disengage from combat using a combination of their visual distortion field and if required, expending offensive and defensive cyphers to escape or sow confusion, using up cyphers as a last resort. A telepathic link also allows any group of envoys to communicate among themselves and coordinate attacks to use “cooperative actions” (pg.101 Numenera core book) against potential adversaries or quarry.
Interaction: An envoy will act according to the mission that they are dispatched to perform. If they are required to make contact they will communicate accordingly and are very knowledgeable of most Ninth World languages, even many ancient, lost and technical ones. Otherwise, they keep disturbingly quiet. Rarely though, a gyre may seem a little more human than not, with disturbingly human inflections of speech, mannerisms, addictions, accents or other human traits. These small quirks can come across as quite contradictory to their usual nature. These last have been known to go “Rogue” and strike out on their own to fair well in the underworlds of some major city centres.
Use: Envoys may appear individually but have been observed in groups as large as six, subject to the requirement of their Branj. They are rarely spotted initially among the drones. Once strangers have lingered in vicinity of a Branj for longer than a few hours an envoy or two may make an appearance. They will directly engage interlopers to determine their reason for lingering near the Branj or to assess their value as future targets. Gyres, when they do communicate verbally, typically speak with low, monotone, near mechanical voices, much like the Decanted. They are also capable of implanting images, up to immediate range, in the minds of those more susceptible, should a recipient fail an intellect defence roll. This is not an attack as such, but it can be disturbing or offensive, depending on the visuals being imparted. It is otherwise extremely rare for gyres to communicate directly with other sentient beings using telepathy. Their thoughts and intents are shielded from others that have telepathic abilities, although their presence might be detectable. Rumours abound of strange entities such as these abducting unsuspecting travelers or raiding the outlying sections of rural, suburban and urban areas on the darkest evenings, usually for purposes unknown. It is reported that many of these poor folk are later found, lost, confused or even “maddened” but usually none the worst for wear, physically.
Loot: Any single envoy might have one cypher, with as many as 1d6 cyphers evenly distributed among a group of envoys.
NPC: Sopari is a farmer (level 2) who has been searching the area between the family farm and the nearest Branj over the last few days. Sopari has been trying to determine the whereabouts of a family member, mysteriously gone missing. Sopari will ask the PCs, if they are knowledgeable about the Branj, if they have seen or will keep an eye out for that family member, possibly offering a meager reward for any information or for the recovery of the lost family member.
Rumour: Not only does livestock go missing, but the ravaged remains of very unfamiliar creatures have frequently been found on the outskirts of farms closest to a Branj that only recently appeared.
GM Intrusion: At some point during the night, regardless of location, the PCs will note the sudden muting of insects and some imperceptible sense of something amiss, either a tingling sensation in their spine, hairs raising due to a growing electrical charge building or PCs with acute senses detecting a barely perceptible vibration or sound for the last few seconds. If the PCs turn down the intrusion, everything eventually goes away and returns to normal, the envoys moving on to another target in the region. If accepted, the PCs will be subjected to a sudden intense blinding burst of bright light, if the PCs fail a level 4+ intellect defence roll (increasing the difficulty by 1 for each additional envoy acting in unison, to a maximum of level 7). PCs that fail are in fact stunned for one round while the stealth equipped envoys pilfer their packs for cyphers and other numenera. Depending on how the GM sets up the intrusion, it is conceivable that the envoys actually attempt to abduct a NPC, one of the PCs rides or even a PC, if only for a few minutes, which is all the envoys need to achieve their goal or find what they seek.
Tags: Envoy, gyre, fungus, creepy, Branj, theft, numenera, cypher, telepathy, suggestion, stealth.
Branj Harvester (Decanted) 4(12)
This is a Decanted variant (pg. 34 The Ninth World Bestiary.) Only the changes to the baseline creature will be listed below. A Branj harvester is basically a Decanted with one modified shearing limb and several additional storage bins for collecting and compressing harvested fungal material. Intellectually, it is less capable than it’s Decanted brethren. They are also tasked with herding drones under a variety of circumstances. There are usually 1d6 harvesters present per 100 drones and they work while the drones are out.
Motive: To harvest for the Branj.
Environment: Up to line of sight (LOS) from their parent fungal mass or Branj, usually! Otherwise, fully capable of ranging as far as any other Decanted, if recruited into a slaving or raiding party.
Damage Inflicted: 6
Modifications: Frozen shearing appendage replaces one limb. Not as cunning as the Decanted, prone to taking orders from higher authority within Branj with little self-determination.
Interaction: A harvester’s primary interest is getting the days harvest completed and making certain that it is all returned to the Branj for shipment to parts unknown. The mental capacity of harvesters is nowhere near that of their Decanted brethren. Although capable of communications, they are not interested in doing so on most occasions. Conversations, if any, will be simple and curt.
Combat: As per Decanted except that it will attempt to hold an opponent with one freezing grip while trying to use it’s frozen mechanical blade to eviscerate the offending intruder.
Use: Harvesters will not negotiate for the purchase of slaves, they just capture intruders if the Branj deems it so, especially if the intruders tend to be considered good genetic stock by Decanted criteria.
NPC: Nergond – A level 5 slave trader that, outside of regular clientele, has odd dealings with the decanted. Nergond has an eye for “merchandise” and is always on the lookout for fine specimens for select “trade partners.” It is rumoured that Nergond acquires numenera and other special services from these demanding clients, usually well outside of the reach of the competition. Nergond never travels alone and is always attended by at least 1d6 mercenaries (level 3) and a minimum of 2d6 slaves (level 1) from varying backgrounds. If Nergond has a pre-arranged appointment with the PCs or some other business transaction where the exchange of slaves and shins is not a consideration, then Nergond only brings mercenaries. Nergond is known to make a few trips each year to pre-designated meeting sites to deal with the decanted. The fact that most of these locations are within one day of travel from a Branj might not be a coincidence.
GM Intrusion: There is a lone grey sampler (pg.60 The Ninth World Bestiary) working the colony instead of the typical 1d6 harvesters. It patrols the perimeter (long range) when not harvesting. It has been re-programmed to harvest the pulpy succulent flesh of the Branj drones instead of brains. It may also be fertilizing the ground with fungal meat and spores or it can have an automated trailer following it. Offer up an intrusion, if it is turned down, the automaton stops, takes notice for a few rounds, as if deliberating, and then carries on with its business. Otherwise, it hovers toward the PCs, positioning itself between them and the Branj, just beyond immediate range. With its back turned to the PCs, keeping half an eye back on the them, it twitches its tail like a cat about to be fed tinned meat, while leading the way to the Branj. Is it a deliberately twisted trap or an error in programming, the PCs may soon find out?
Tags: Grey Sampler, harvest, fungus, creepy, Branj.
Branj Rogue (The Black) 4(12)
Lanky and emaciated, these awkward looking shrunken-headed, stick-figured beings move their shiny, leathery, ebony-skinned frames with amazing fluidity and grace. A Branj rogue ranges from six to eight feet (2 to 2.5m) in height. It is not at all certain if they are decanted nobles that have escaped the monotonous existence of the fabled city of Glass or if they are something other? Those rogues that have communicated with outsiders have sometimes indicated that they use the Branj to “get around.”
Motive: Disdain to hatred of slavery.
Environment: Anywhere in the Ninth World, but generally within a few days travel of any given Branj colony.
Damage Inflicted: 6
Modifications: Speed defence as level six due to their thin and agile frames. Stealth as level five when using visual distortion field. May teleport as an action up to 1 mile (1.6km), once per minute.
Combat: Can slash or impale opponents with long, hardened, bony fingers.
Interaction: A Branj rogue can be a formidable and knowledgeable ally if they know you can be trusted. The best of them have very loft goals, despising all forms of slavery. The worst of them use and abuse the Branj network but can make excellent informants in the conflict against slavers and decanted machinations, if you are willing to make a deal?
Use: It has been implied by some “in the know” that rogues use the Branj transportation network to obstruct the decanted and their allies. How and why they do so remains an enigma. As bizarre as they appear and act, Branj rogues have been known to offer advice, knowledge and rarely, technology to those that need it. These acts allow some to better search for their loved ones or fight back against the decanted and their suppliers. It is likely that rogues possess terrible knowledge that they dare not share with their confederates.
Loot: Rogues always carry 1-3 cyphers, which will have an intended use for whatever mission the rogue is currently conducting.
Huyder – A level 3 reformed slaver. Level 5 connections to mysterious sources and knowledge of a handful of strange languages. Huyder has connections and has been seen in the company of very strange, if not down-right alien creatures in various dark corners of the community. If anyone has met a Branj Rogue, it might be Huyder?
Artifact – Geopode Transitor
Form: a longstaff/mace-like device which projects a manipulable holographic field around it’s head when activated.
Effect: The tip of the mace needs to be stuck into the tendril network that connects the Branj. The user then programs a destination in the holographic display (minimum 1 action), which allows the user to instantaneously transport themselves anywhere around the world spanning Branj network, circumnavigating the control nodes (hearts) of each Branj in the network. May transport up to it’s level in human sized entities along the network.
Depletion: 1 on a 1d20
Associated GM Intrusion: In mid transport, while using the Geopode Transitor, it malfunctions, ejecting those being transported, either long or short of their intended destination. The PCs are none-the-worst for wear, but will be full ready to carry on with whatever new situation or location the GM deems suitable.
The Furnace (Branj Heart) 7(21)
At the center of the main mass – the largest fungal structure within any Branj is “The Furnace”. It is the heart of each Branj and is buried deep within the colony. The furnace is a complex, highly-specialized fungal mass that controls all functions of a Branj from seeding, growth, regeneration, movement, local and long distance communications, transportation and even the dissolution of the colony itself, if it comes under imminent and overwhelming threat. The Branj heart is not truly aware in any way that we can conceive, but it does sense more than we could ever comprehend and, it is most definitely alive. Perhaps it is remotely controlled by a higher order of intelligence?
The heart of any Branj is as varied as the Branj that surrounds it. Some are thin membranes with a hollow interior, others are mire and decay, many are spongy or calloused and a few are turbid roiling masses of “otherness.” If the shell of the Branj was stripped away, no mean feat in and of itself, the heart “could” carry on and reseed the colony. More likely though, the heart would consume the whole of the Branj that it could and then shrivel away, leaving traces of itself with a few microscopic spores while reseeding elsewhere. A Branj colony can seed, root and bloom to full size within a week and they have been known to disappear overnight.
Motive: Control of the Branj and eventual absorption of it’s immediate environment.
Environment: Anywhere in the Ninth World.
Health: 30 – the surrounding branj structure and tissue, the main portion of the colony (the mushroom meat), is always level 1 but has 100 health for every hundred branj drones that reside within.
Damage Inflicted: 8 points
Armor: 0 (in most instances.)
Movement: None (in most instances.)
Modifications: Some, not necessarily all, Branj colonies may release a cloud of toxic spores or aerosolized fluids up to long range as a defensive measure, attacking at level 5. Alternatively, they might leak similarly noxious fluids in a steady stream, poisoning or dissolving their immediate environment. Direct contact with a Branj heart under combat conditions may provide opportunity for the heart to teleport equipment or opponents, while defending itself at level 7. Biological creatures that are “tempered” or consumed in part or whole by the Branj heart might suffer one of several possible fates.
Combat: Adverse weather or environmental conditions, such as strong winds, rain might reduce the level of a spore or aerosol attack by a step or two, just as damp enclosed spaces with minimal ventilation might increase the level of the attack by a step or two. Damage effects usually vary from nausea, unconsciousness, hallucinations, suffocation, biological mutation to death for biological opponents that fail an appropriate might, speed or intellect roll. The effect depends on the GMs encounter design or intent. Branj inhabitants will be immune to these effects. Possible toxins include but are not limited to:
– Spores that cause one or two step decrease for might, speed or intellect rolls, or that spores that stun, impair, disable or control victims for 1, 2 or even 1d6 rounds of combat.
– an Aerosol that reeks of a thousand rotting corpses lasting 1d6 rounds, requiring a might roll for all within the cloud to continue actions without vomiting. Non-breathing individuals and those with alternate means of respiration may ignore this effect.
– A viscous, web-like sticky ooze that splatters over everything that it contacts, binding objects and their wielders together or to each other. Attempting any physical action will require a successful speed roll during each round combat. Those that fail will add a step of difficulty to their current action.
As an alternate attack, once per round, a Branj heart may teleport any object or entity that it successfully defended against in the current round. The object or entity is teleported, with no other affect, to another Branj somewhere along the Ninth World fungal network, or to the city of Glass, as the Branj heart chooses.
Otherwise, the heart will likely work to “temper” or slowly consume an “opponent” that comes into contact with it in any way, especially if the opponent is being fed to the heart by Branj inhabitants. The process of tempering can totally transform many kinds of matter or creatures. Each successful 8 points of damage inflicted against a biological creature from contact with the heart can introduce a harmful, distinctive or cosmetic mutation to those in contact with it (pg.124 Numenera core book.) A successful might roll against the Branj heart will avoid a random or select mutation, as the GM decides. Those fully consumed suffer an even worse fate.
Interaction: There are only two types of interaction to be had with a Branj heart, bad and questionable. If anyone comes into contact with the heart under combat conditions it is a crap shoot as to which excruciating torture that poor creature will endure. On the questionable side, properly prepared individuals, that have not raised an alarm or acted in offense to the Branj, might be able to make use of the inherent nature of the Branj and it’s heart with little to no ill affect.
Use: Knowledgeable individuals and even small groups have been known to approach and study a Branj colony with no ill or negative effects. Maybe they were lucky or they went in properly trained, equipped and prepared, but those folks rarely sell trade secrets. There is hearsay that some even manage to return with biological samples, even from the depth of the heart. Samples such as these are likely to fetch high prices in certain markets, especially undisclosed trades with Aeon priests, the Convergence or less savory individuals.
Loot: The heart may contain up to 1d6 cyphers and possibly one artifact. In addition, the PCs may find 2d6 pieces of random equipment in various states of being or disrepair.
If an individual is forcibly introduced to the furnace they become “tempered.” This is an excruciatingly painful process where they become one with the Branj, being fed into a slimy, voracious, toothless maw, which can open anywhere on the mass of the heart. The unfortunate soul will be slowly transformed and then remade into the form of a drone, an envoy or more rarely, a rogue. Which outcome, is left to the GM?
Individuals entering the furnace of their own free will, in non-combat conditions, won’t suffer the transformation but will find themselves transported to and sealed within a locked cell, in the city of Glass, awaiting further processing by their Decanted host (probably via the Optero Suite, which might be biological technology related to a Branj heart?) The network can otherwise be safely navigated to specific destinations, with the aide of a Branj rogue using their skill and knowledge or through the use of Branj specific Numenera.
Associated GM Intrusion
Tags: Branj Heart, heads, fungus, creepy, Branj.
Should the PCs ever reach the Branj heart they might accidentally slip on something. Offer an intrusion, if they turn it down, they only slipped up on a patch of fungal goo or ooze. If the intrusion is accepted then one of the players must make a level four speed defence to avoid falling among a pile of disembodied heads that are buried within the fungal folds of the Branj, closest to the heart. They are mostly human heads, appearing to be half-consumed and half-melted off at the neck or upper shoulders. Worse yet, the heads somehow remain animated and mouth silent words or screams but cannot do so due to lack of lungs. Telepathic contact with any of the heads is ill-advised and should deal horrific images, thoughts and pain to any attempting to do so.
Depending on the Branj biology and life cycle, the inhabitants may only operate external to the Branj during daylight hours, at night, around the clock or only during specific weather or seasons. Each Branj is different. Rarely, Branj are also know to temporarily appear at the site of rich nutritional harvests, such as some recent major field of battle or the death site of some gargantuan entity. The inhabitants return to the main mass of the Branj at least once a day, melding into it in their entirety. They emerge again later to continue their routine all over again. The odd sea-salt has also thrown out drunken scuttlebutt that there are aquatic variations of these colonies.
Branj inhabitants, least-wise the ones that can communicate, may refer to “The Branj” or “The Furnace” in divine terms during awkward communications with outsiders but will never overtly reveal what the crucible is or where it is located, because it just “is” to them.
If successful communication are cultivated with the inhabitants of a colony, the interlopers (PCs or other adventurers) will find that each colony has a name prefixed with Branj, with the suffix name differing from colony to colony. For example Branj Ruber, Branj Fraxi or Branj Cyata. Fungal genus and species names and their derivatives are appropriate.
Communications between colonies, in particular the furnaces at the center of each, is conducted between networks of large fungal trunks spreading potentially up to thousands miles between each Branj node. The main trunks of these networks may be located anywhere from ground level and up to thousands of feet below the Ninth World’s surface.
Other creatures that might interact within the temporary ecosystem created by a mycolony include but are not limited to:
Broken Hound, Ghost Crabs (aquatic Branj), Ithsyn, Laak, Pallone, Ravage Bears, Sathosh, Scutimorph and Yellow Swarm (all from Numenera corebook) or,
Bellowheart, Bloodfeast Tick, Coccitan, Dabirri (aquatic Branj), Drebil, Ellnoica, Flesh Pup, Flying Elchin, Golthiar, Kanthid, Llaric Scorpion, Morl, Neveri, Orgulus, Slicer Beetle, Slurge, Tachyron, Trawl and Xiomarche (all from The Ninth World Bestiary) or,
Angled Ones, Cloud Volii, Entlan, Lagliard, Mnethashi, Nchalsik, Parlous Green, Shoun, Slistovile and Vro from the Ninth World Guidebook, which present realistic options for play.
For reasons yet to be discerned, the majority of these creatures rarely, if ever, attack the mycolony or it’s inhabitants. This could be due to the physical make-up of the colony (fungi) and the lack of nutrition available from it’s inhabitants or because of some other yet to be discovered factor? These creatures are far more likely to attack other prey drawn to or making use of the by-products of the Branj. Many of these creatures will likely form some sort of temporary mutually beneficial symbiotic relationship with or scavenge from the vicinity of the Branj for the duration of its presence.
One might see there is a noticeable lack of abhuman’s and similar creatures listed above. There is a probably good reason most of these these denizens of the Ninth World give wide berth to a Branj, except maybe to give worship, or leave offerings, from a distance! The exception to the rule being Syzygy Ghouls, which also subsist on the same death and material decay that most Branj would exploit. Oddly enough, many ghouls fit right into the “look” affected by Branj inhabitants and could be mistaken with them. Maybe ghouls, being collectors of knowledge that they are, possess other secrets on how to exploit the full extent of the Branj communications and transportation network?
Velkar – Level 5 Hunter/Naturalist – Velkar has an intense interest in the ecologies that spring up around Branj and has been hunting around them for years, often finding new and unique species of flora and fauna for various interested parties. Velkar is well connected with both the Amber Papacy and the Sarracenians and is well remunerated for many exceptional or rare finds. It has been whispered among peers, and in various quarters, that Velkar also has an “in” with the strange Syzygy Ghoul folk because of previous exploits among or favours afforded to their kind.
The Other Weird Thing
Strange lights observed around remote mountain peaks and over deeply forested valleys have also been encountered in the late night or early morning hours near Branj colonies. The connection between these sightings, the decanted, harvesters, the weird fungal Branj colonies, or their even stranger inhabitants, cannot be good portents for any nearby populations or unfortunate passers by. This late period activity will not be noted unless dedicated observers keep watch during those eerie and lonely hours around a Branj. Not many are that willing, brave or foolhardy.
Added inspiration for this writing owes itself to H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Whisperer in Darkness” and Pagan Publishing’s “Delta Green” source book (especially the art-piece on pg.83.) Using the material provided above, the Mi-Go, which may be found within the Numenera Glimmer – In Strange Aeons (pg.10) would make an excellent choice for a deeper level mystery or adversary that could be associated to the Branj and the Decanted, but how and to what alien ends remains to be unearthed?