So Friday started out being one of the busiest of the convention and I saw a lot of people come by the booth. Again, it was really a highlight of the convention to be able to share my passion for the game and see those people get excited about it too. I also got to meet Chris Pramas of Green Ronin Publishing who is an inspiration of mine. He was very cool and very gracious. Later in the booth, Wil Wheaton was walking the con (getting kinda bothered as he is apt to be due to his celebrity). I did introduce myself to him and offer my hand to shake (epic fail- I know his thing with this at cons). I told him that my podcast was up against his in the ENnies and he graciously told me "Well good luck then!" to which I wished him the same.
Friday night was also the ENnie Awards and Transmissions from the Ninth World (TF9W) was up for Best Podcast, which is a million shades of crazy to begin with. While my friends who rode up with me were committed to run the second part of first round Numenera official games, I was not alone. Charles, Monte and Shanna all made special trips to the ENnies to support TF9W. That in and of itself was humbling and I am eternally grateful for their support. I also had their friends and our friends at d20 Radio there in support of us. Even with all that support, that night I was incredibly nervous: What if we actually won and I had to go up in front of all of these industry people to make and acceptance speech? On the other hand, what if we didn't win? Could I handle the disappointment? I didn't expect to win, but I admit I got caught up in the chance that we COULD win.
Well, we didn't win and I admit I was disappointed. More than I should've been. And on top of that, my phone was dead so I could reach my wife or my co-hosts. I left before the show was over and went to check in on the other first round games. I met up with Monte and Shanna there and they were amazingly supportive and fantastic; I got over my disappointment pretty fast and I won’t forget them for the kindness they shared.
Bruce Cordell's group wrapped earlier than most, so I got to talk with him and get to know him one-on-one. It was just more proof that Monte and Shanna are truly surrounding themselves with AMAZING people. Bruce is a great guy.
Chris, Tom and I were pretty washed out, so we called it an early evening (11:30 being early) and headed back to our hotel. I should note they were also very cool about the ENnie's loss and also helped me put things in perspective.
Saturday morning came early and while I was heading in I realized I hadn't done much to support the other reason I came to the convention, supporting my side project. I saw an older gentleman outside of the Westin hotel and I approached him because he was wearing a D&D "red box" t-shirt and it is an OSR product. I approached him and respectfully offered him my flyer which included artwork that is an homage to Larry Elmore's red box cover art. The man smiled warmly and introduced himself as Frank Mentzer. Chris, Tom and I- all children of the eighties- dropped our jaws in unison. Seriously, what was the chance? We had an amazing conversation with this man who meant so much to our childhood and he was so genuine and supportive it was a conversation I will never forget. I should also mention that Timothy Case, formerly of Dragon Magazine and now of Gygax Magazine was there with him.
With such a great start for the day, I got into the booth and started doing my thing. A lot of folks were eager to get signatures from Monte, so I helped form the line for his signing time since he was running a bit late from his preceding panel. I talked to the folks, asking them if they were on the Ninth World Hub and if they'd heard the podcast. Basically, I was like the warm up comedian before a Leno show. The line formed reach across the aisle and I helped get it organized. Once the line crossed back over the aisle, I was free to go with Chris and Tom and actually walk the convention floor pretty much for the first time. I went and met the Shadows of Esteren (SoE) crew (my inspiration for my side project) and they were incredibly humble and gracious. We made plans to get a drink after the expo floor closed to talk. After getting lunch from a food truck (Taco Lassi- delicious), we ran the floor a bit more and I bonded with the d20 Radio guys too.
A few more hours in the booth afforded me meeting a lot more new fans. But as we closed the booth, I had a direct plan to meet with the SoE guys and then, later, to host the Numenera Fan Hangout at Ike & Jonesy's. Coincidentally, the SoE guys and the folks they were also meeting with were heading to Ike & Jonesy's, so I just made plans to stay there and scout out the place.
Ike & Jonesy's was an ok place, not quite what it advertised itself to be online. But it was doable. The problem was twofold though- come 9ish, they pumped up the music pretty loud and we were relegated to a pretty small area. On top of that there was some MotoCross event in town and thousands of bikers had invaded the area and unfortunately Ike & Jonesy's was on the cusp of that. I take full credit for the botched location and have Ninth Worlders in Indiana who will help us scout a better location for next year, because we for sure will try to make this an annual event. At least we got stories about Shanna acting as a bouncer for our area out of it.
After someone in the group figured out we could relocate to the Omni Hotel lobby, we all moved rather quickly over there. Again, my phone had died so I was unable to pass the news out as I would've hoped to. Sorry if anyone missed us. We had a great time at the Omni and met some other industry folks over there, so it worked to expand our party some. But by the end of the night, I'd completely lost my voice.
Sunday morning came early despite the fact that we slept in a bit. We packed up our hotel room and headed into town for the last day of the convention. I ran into Frank Mentzer again, showed him the products from my side project and actually got him to take a photo holding one. Pretty awesome. I manned the booth a bit, but then ran some errands on the con floor, picking up pre-paid items and picking up product for friends. After a near tearful good bye to the Numenera team, we headed out around 1pm for the long ride home.
Overall, I had a fantastic time meeting all the Ninth Worlders and converting some folks into new Ninth Worlders. It was literally one of the best weeks of my life and I will never forget my first GenCon for sure. Monte is a fantastic person and has gifted us a really awesome creation to play in for some time. Shanna added a lot to both the product we enjoy and my time at the convention. Charles is a machine that will help Monte Cook Games succeed and free our creative leads to create. And meeting Bruce was a real highlight and I'm excited to see what he will contribute. The rest of the gang, Ray Vallese, Colin McComb, Robin Moulder (and Tammie Ryan who wasn't present but was working hard to support remotely), are amazing people that add so much to what we're going to be seeing in the next year. I'm really gifted to have been given a glimpse into their world and to be able to represent the fans because nothing is more important to them than you. Trust me on that.
So, until next year, I will have to subsist on the memories of this past GenCon, like a mesomeme sucking the memories from its victims… slurp.
Previously on my GenCon Experience: Part 2
After a late night of Werewolf it was difficult to get up the next morning, but I managed. After a quick breakfast, I went to hang out with some friends who were just in town for Saturday at GenCon. That morning I convinced one of my friends who had travelled with me to buy my kickstarter copy of Numenera when it arrived. This freed me up to swing by the booth and buy one of the deluxe additions of the book. Monte and Shanna were also going to be signing around this time. I picked up my copy of the deluxe core book, of which there appeared to be very few left, and then unlike Thursday when we could walk right up and chat with Monte there was a pretty long line. I think this is for two reasons. The first is that Saturday at GenCon is the busiest single day, so I’m sure that there were many people who were only here on that day. The other is a tribute to the Monte Cook Games (MCG) crew. Since there was shipping delays and backers did not receive their core books prior to GenCon, MCG had book plates made so that if you were a backer you could get it signed and then insert it into your book when it arrived.
I went to the back of the line, where David happened to be holding the obligatory “This is the end of the line” sign. He told me not to wait in line, and just have Monte sign it when we played @ 2:00. Good idea David, so I went and asked Shanna if this would be alright, and if she would also be there to sign my book as well. She said yes, so off I went to grab a quick lunch and wait at the Marriott.
Our group met up at about 1:30 and we chatted until about 2:00 when Shanna invited us into a small, almost private room. At GenCon most gaming rooms have 6 to 20 or more tables. This one had two, and the other table was not being used for a game. As we got started, I noticed there were going to be spectators. If you have never role played in front of an audience before, it’s a little different. However, Monte is such an amazing story teller that after a short while those people faded to the background, and I was in the story. Again I don’t want to spoil the adventure for those that may get to play it, but here are a few gems:
Aaron: “I can hear voices” Me: “You’re Crazy”
Nick: “I can hear voices too” Me: “Great your Crazy is contagious”
Me being very good at hitting my own party members
“I Push the button”, “Let’s push the button”, “Might as well push the button”
Orgasm vs. Organism
Those are just a few of the highlights, and it was an amazing game. The way the end of the adventure played out was amazing. There was tons of tension at the end (partially due to my inability to roll above a 7), and the story did not have a typical happily ever after.
I learned several things over the course of David and Monte GMing that I am going to try to carry into my home games. Describing without naming, well done GM intrusion, and most of all say YES!!! After the game we had a few minutes, and Monte signed our books, and chatted with us for a bit, and we even got a picture. Shanna however had eluded me.
I then went and grabbed dinner and played games with friends for a few hours. After a trip back to the hotel to lighten my bag I checked twitter. This time I saw a tweet from Shanna reminding people about the Numenera fan party and Ike and Joes. So off I went. In additional to GenCon in Indianapolis it was also bike week. So I enter a bar full of bikers, and David was directing people at the door, but it was like 3% gamer, 97% biker and it was loud and crowded. I went back and said hello to Shanna and a few others, then went to the bar to grab a drink. It took forever. When I finally got my drink I went back to the corner were my Numenera friends were, and they were gone….
So I checked twitter to see if there was an announcement that they had moved somewhere, but found nothing. I was just about to leave when Bruce Cordell and another Numenera fan (Sorry didn’t catch your name) walked in. I told them the scoop, and Bruce sent off a flurry of texts. So we chatted for a few minutes while waiting for replies, and then my fellow fan received a text from a friend, “I’m at the Numenera gathering at the Omni, where are you?” A lead, so then as Bruce put it we were on the quest to find the party, and we did. It was great handing out with the MCG crew and other Numenera fans. About midnight I was spent so back to the hotel for my final sleep at GenCon.
Sunday was packing and preparing for the trip home. I still had one more thing to do though. Hunt down Shanna Germain and get her signature in my book. About 11:30 I swung by the booth and she was there. After signing my book, I gave her and Bruce a final thank you, and then I was off to grab a quick lunch and head out of town. Numenera Con Achievement Unlocked.
Numenera, David, Monte, Shanna, Bruce, Nick, Yoshi, Mike, Aaron and everyone else involved in Numenera made this GenCon the best I have ever been to. Thank you all for being part of an awesome experience.
A loud boom thundered next to them. It was the great gate in the middle of the arena, the one from behind which a giant horror would be unleashed for the gladiators. The gate was made of twin doors that would open out, each a huge stone slab with a huge steel crossbar laid across it, sealing it shut. The beast behind struck the doors over and over, making the gate’s crossbar rattle in its brackets. It was large and angry and had not stopped slamming against the door that confined it. It had been banging since before the fights, and was said to have been a particularly strong opponent for the champion gladiator. With a final bang its strength was rewarded, as one of the brackets tore loose with a cloud of stone dust, only held to the wall by a few ancient bolts. The door had not been made for extended abuse, and perhaps this creature was mightier than the gate-makers had anticipated.
“Hold,” Duncan said, and the fighters heaving against the smaller gate made room for him. He braced himself, putting his hands beneath spikes on one of the bars and, the other fighters fitting themselves in around him, heaved the door up. At first it did not budge but then the disc-like implants along Duncan’s arms and chest flashed with their blue light. The door began to lift, slowly, and all the fighters rushed to get under it and push. Duncan moved his hands under it, leaning forward to take most of the weight as he adjusted, and then with a massive heave wrenched the gate open.
“Sword,” he rumbled, and one of the fighters pulled the second broadsword from his belt and wedged it in the space between the gate and the wall on one side, then did the same with one of their own greatswords on the other. The rest rushed through into the dark tunnel beyond, taking a chance on escape down the passages below the arena rather than the slaughter in the stands above. All but one, a tall man with black hair and trim beard who stood by Duncan as he tested the gate to judge if he could release his grip safely.
“Leave,” Duncan rumbled, but the other man shook his head.
“I owe you a life debt, friend, and I intend to repay it.” At that Duncan grunted and began to let go of the gate. Just then a shout came from across the arena.
“Wait!” the voice cried. Turning to look he saw one last fighter running through the arena but slowed by the changing terrain, forced to wait when a wall rose up, or time a leap across a pit opening up beneath him. It was the farmer slave in blue, the one who had begged Duncan for mercy before the fight. He had been unable to grant it then, as he was still a slave, but now...
The cry of a wind-glider from above was their only warning before fire bomb struck. Duncan’s tactical mind had perceived the threat from the corner of his eye and warned him an instant ahead of the explosion. He shoved the fighter through the gate then leapt into a roll and back to his feet as the flames burst. There was a clattering sound of the swords falling from the gate and the boom as it slid shut. Duncan was still in the arena.
Burning black oil covered the gate, and the other fighter had his arms raised as he tried to get near it from his side. He coughed from the smoke.
“I’ll wait here until it burns out. We’ll lift it again,” he shouted.
“No time,” Duncan called back. “I’ll find another way out.”
The other man cursed, but relented. He called one last time through the gate before joining the other slaves. “I’ll find you when this is all over, gladiator. You have earned the friendship of Ibex, fighting man of Pytharon!”
Duncan looked about the arena, the tactical mind processing everything. Overhead the arena was filled with flocks of the wind-gliders, done now with delivering troops and now circling like carrion birds. To one side of the arena Duncan saw the mass of the human crowd, herded together for the kill in one mass by the raiders. To the other side the behemoth-creature stomping across the steps of the arena looking to cross to the other side. Its mouth hung open, a huge fleshy tongue extended with four tips on the end curling and uncurling in anticipation of the feast awaiting it. The steps behind it had been reduced to rubble, and a large portion of the wall to the first tier was cracked up and down by the slightest hit from its tail.
Cracked enough for a desperate man to climb. Duncan’s tactical mind suggested several options, but his imagination came up with the plan. For once they agreed, a strange sensation for the gladiator but a welcome one.
The raider who’d thrown the firebomb had circled around for another pass and coming around readied its javelin and threw it. The lightning crackled when it left the raider’s hand and flew towards Duncan. Mid-air the power of the javelin kicked in and propelled it with the unnatural speed of the raider’s weapons. Only Duncan could have moved so fast, at the last second moving to the side and grabbing it with one hand. The lightning shocked him, but he withstood the pain and held it fast. Then, wasting no time, he spun and launched it towards the damaged bracket holding the crossbar across the great gate. The lightning shocked forth and exploded the bracket outwards, shattering or melting the remaining bolts holding it to the wall. The beast beyond the portal was silent, then slammed against the gate once more. The twin slabs of stone opened a crack, the stone crossbar moving out a foot.
The wind-glider banked hard as it neared the great gate, and as it turned a long limb hot forth from the opening. It was massive, the thickness of an ancient tree with thick, grey-white skin and a great human-like hand with rock-like fingernails. It reached out and snagged the wind-glider and its rider, both of which screamed a high-pitched squeal as they were crushed in that hideous hand. This close to freedom the beast screamed and battered against the door, slammed itself against it, and shoved the portal open. The raider and its mount were a wet past at this point, and Duncan had already begun to move as the beast knocked back the twin doors and entered the battle floor.
It was immense, a man-like thing greater in size than the siege-beast, standing on two thick legs. Its body was thick and barrel-chested with broad shoulders, and covered in thick grey-white skin broken only by long bony protrusions at its elbows and its nails, that looked to all observers like slabs of rough-hewn rock. Its legs were thick but squat so that it stood hunched over, ape-like in its posture with long thick limbs that reached to the ground. Its every inch was muscled, thick ropes knotted under its skin as it moved. It stormed out of the doors and into the shifting stone labyrinth that was the battle floor, and when it saw the open space and the others that filled it, the ape-thing stopped and screamed. Its squat head parted at the jaw and revealed thick fangs.
The slaughter in the stands, the firebombs of the wind-gliders, and the skirmishes of Zak and Xeran stopped. All looked to the new horror that had entered, shocked and awed by it as it stood its ground and bellowed. The raiders in the stands and the herded masses of humans held stock still, unsure how to deal with this new threat. The wind-gliders circled, and one of them boldly threw a javelin that struck the beast’s shoulder but merely stopped where it had blasted through other targets. The ape-thing barely looked at it but swatted the flier out of the air.
Its focus was entirely on the siege-beast. They locked eyes for a long moment, each shifting their feet, and at once charged. The ape-thing rushed forward, bounding over low and high walls that stood in its way. When it got enough speed it leapt at the siege-beast, but its foe was already swinging its massive tail to bash it to pieces like so much stone. The ape-thing was evenly matched to it and caught the tail in the middle rather than taking the brunt of the killing end-club. It pulled the siege-beast to it, who turned and stood on its hind legs and the two of them grappled like two great wrestlers. One pushed the other back and forth, battering into the rising and lowering walls of the battle floor. The siege-beast’s great tail swept against the sides of the arena, shattering those stones and knocking them down.
Duncan jumped the first walls one by one, then kicked off the top of one to soar for a moment above a trench-sized gap in the floor. The maze was already shifting and the trench was suddenly a set of steps leading to a long line of catwalks above deep pits. Duncan remembered the various layouts well, having fought his way through them each week for five years. First it was the maze, then the catwalks, then the forest of pillars, and on and on, over and over in sequence. His tactical mind had memorized them and, knowing which would appear next, he knew where to go, knew which hallway would become a wall and which catwalk would become a gaping pit. Running full tilt he could time himself to dive at walls that would become hallways and leap into chasms that would become walkways.
The wind-gliders were busy with the rampaging monsters, too busy to mind a single slave on the run. At the far end he could see the farmer in blue clutching a crossbow to his chest, struggling to make his way through the shifting maze. If he could reach him, two slaves could see freedom this day.
He reached the top of a platform and leapt into the air, aiming at a series of pillars that would meet him by the time he landed. The giants struck each other as he did this, and the impact sent a cloud of sand and dust up knocking him over. He skidded across a stretch of floor that became a gap. Most of the sand had fallen away but there was still enough that he couldn’t get a hold. His hands scrabbled at the edge but it was too late, and he sailed through the air towards the black stone ground below.
Before he struck his body stopped a foot above the floor. He looked up at the wall of the stands and saw a human with painted blue lips and tattered hooded cloak standing with his hand extended towards Duncan. The eyes of the man looked through Duncan, but the expression was... unreadable. The hold on Duncan lessened and the figure moved away as the terrain changed. Pillars blocked him from view, though before they did Duncan could see a trio of raiders heading after him. The screeches of the wind-gliders reminded the gladiator there was no time to waste, and he was off.
The forest of pillars was a set used for hunting games, where Angmarcus forced Duncan to hunt beasts and sometimes other slaves from pillar to pillar. There were long rows of pillars on a diagonal crisscross so a fighter could run down one row and see no one until the fighters appeared on a cross line. It was usually a waiting game ducking from cover to cover, gaining ground until close quarters fights, or else firing crossbows down corridors. The giants struggled above him, walking on the pillar tops in their struggle while the raiders threw everything they had at them both. The black stones of the battle floor were a strange substance that could not be damaged by any force Duncan had ever seen, and were held in place by invisible energies from deep below. Save when moved by one in the control balcony of the master of the arena, they could not be forced up or down or harmed in any way.
The cries of the farmer echoed in Duncan’s ears, and he raced down the corridor looking left and right but seeing no sign of him. Suddenly there he was and Duncan pivoted and broke into a fast sprint. The farmer saw him but his face betrayed his fear, and the crossbow was shaking in his hands.
“Don’t come near me!” the farmer shouted
“I’m here to help,” Duncan shouted back, but the farmer pointed the crossbow and fired.
Duncan skidded to a halt, saw the bolt fly through the air... and stop there pointed at his head. The bolt hung in place for an instant and then crackled with electricity that spread out and revealed a Hyda beast a foot in front of him. It screamed in pain and turned towards the farmer, but Duncan grabbed its tail and pulled, then swung his fist as the head came around. More than human, Duncan was a fusion of flesh and biomechanical enhancements to be a living weapon. His fists were like hammers and could break stone when needed. His punch landed solidly, and the Hyda beast’s head whipped back with a crack that loosed several of its still-sparking scales. Caught between two threats and wounded by each, it bolted with a hiss.
“I saw a footprint in the sand,” the farmer said, lowering his crossbow. Duncan nodded and clapped the farmer on the shoulder, and they moved off without a word.
The ape-thing was better balanced on the forest of pillars than the siege-beast, and with a howl it pulled the monster down with a great crash. The whip-like tail of the siege-beast was the last to hit the ground, and it crashed through the governor’s balcony. The entire ledge cracked and split away, and great sparks exploded out of the niche of the master of the arena as the entire layer crumbled and fell. The ape-thing went berserk and started bashing the siege-beast over and over with its massive club-like fists, until the battered and bloodied siege-beast whipped its tail and sent the ape-thing stumbling back into the side of the arena. The Ape-thing hit the wall hard enough that the stone ring of the arena crumbled, and several raiders on the edge fell to the ground. The siege-beast collapsed, broken.
This was enough for the masses of spectators hemmed in by the raiders. In the chaos of the monster fight those armed attacked the nearest raiders, while those unarmed leapt upon them and battered them with fists and took their weapons for themselves. Screaming defiance the crowd fought to get free, running for the exits or dying as the raiders counter-attacked. It was a desperate fight, and one not fated to last long.
The controls to the battle floor had been destroyed by the siege-beast’s tail, and with a sudden sparkling explosion the labyrinth ceased to shift between the patterns familiar to Duncan. Instead, the black slabs began shifting on their own, shifting between forms Duncan had never seen before. First it was a great flat ring with a hole in the middle, then single slabs rose up from that surface and floated above the others. This floating ring of slabs began to spin around the base while the other slabs rose and fell like waves in rings from the center.
Duncan and the farmer were outside the great ring, and bolted towards the nearest gash in the side of the arena. From there they climbed to the tier of the lower classes, Duncan first then the farmer, and picked their way through the remains of the slaughter on that side, across the stadium from the crowd. He took a moment to watch, calculating his odds if he made his way over to help, but it was already too late, and the two of them moved up the steps towards the nearest entrance. The raiders had turned their attentions to the humans in force, and those who had fled in the initial chaos were already the only survivors.
The wind-gliders had spun around the monsters, waiting for a clear shot. When the siege-beast fell to the ape-things battering, they opened up with javelins and fire-bombs. It waved its arms, leapt into the air and dragged some down in its fists, but it was a losing battle. Wave after wave wore it down and its steps faltered before it struggled and then fell.
One of the raiders circling on a wind-glider spotted the humans and wheeled towards them. It was an easy shot, a straight dive and a throw. The javelin sparked and sped towards its target, striking Duncan in the back. Stuck in his body, he took the full force of the shock when its flight stopped, and he fell to his knees. The wind-glider’s rider howled at the strike, and wheeled back around for another strike. The path took it through the shifting put its calling horn to its lips and was about to sound a victory call when a shape pounced on him from the top of one of the floating slabs.
The Hyda beast made visible by the crossbow wound had been caught on one slab when it floated above the others, and landed solidly on the wind-glider. It dug in with its teeth in the flier’s neck, its claws in the wind-glider’s wings, and all of them fell to the ground. The predator tore away at the broken flier and her rider, but the taste was not to its liking. With a grunt of frustration it left the poor meals to die, then bounded up a pile of rubble and into the stands. Several other sets of padding feet could be heard, but not seen, following it up and then out of the arena, seeking new hunting grounds and prey that could not find them so easily.
Duncan could feel his blood pouring down from the wound, but all other sensations were a confusing jumble, and his head was on fire from the shock. Each time he tried to move another shock surged through him. His mind flickered in and out, but he could feel the farmer under his shoulder trying desperately to lift him to his feet. Another set of hands and then another were upon him, helping him up to stumble forward.
Zak had long since stopped fighting the raiders and begun to avoid them, hiding behind the hunks of stone left in the wake of the siege-beast. Those who saw him were dealt with, but the fight had taken its toll and the other raiders had grouped in force to slay the humans across the stadium. More and more of the wind-gliders had arrived, and only the timely battle of the giants had kept them from swarming him en masse. He knew he could not save the other humans, but the gladiator had fallen not far away from him, and only a few steps from an exit. He slid down the wall from the noble tier and took his place at the gladiator’s side, opposite the farmer.
“They say any battle you can flee from,” Zak grunted as the two of them heaved the gladiator up and forward.
“Indeed,” Xeran said in his calm voice. He appeared beside the farmer and moved to stand behind the gladiator. Both hands gripped the shaft of the javelin still stuck in Duncan’s back and pulling hard removed the lance. If the lightning that shot up his arms from the javelin harmed him, the wizard made no sign of it. Tossing it to the ground, Xeran pulled a tiny object from his belt and placed it in the gladiator’s wound. The object was a perfectly smooth cylinder, but when it went into the wound hundreds of tiny wires shot out into Duncan’s flesh and cauterized the wound, stitching the flesh together from the inside.
“Follow me, we must leave this place,” the wizard breathed, and reached once more into the pockets of his belt.
Vangar strode to the shattered stump that was the governor’s balcony, chuckling and wiping red from the blade of his dagger. He stopped at the edge and looked out over the slaughter the raiders finished to one side, the ruined bodies of the giants, the fires sending oily smoke up into the mid-day sky where the wing-gliders yet circled, and the ongoing killing the raiders were completing.
The middle of the arena was still shifting in concentric rings, light shining from whatever engines moved them about below. As one the blocks started lifting up out of the floor, until the entire battle floor had come apart and was floating above the arena, then began to spin around in a dozen rings. The area beneath was a deep tunnel, the walls of which were covered in glowing blue lines that branched out over the surface there. From the bottom came a shining blue light, a tiny blue sun that somehow lifted the hundreds of tons of indestructible stone to fly through the air.
“It amazes me how Katan’s first settlers found this miracle of the ancients, and all they could think to do with it was turn it into a death pit for kicks,” Vangar chuckled, flipping his dagger with one hand. “But that’s entertainment for you. Not much else peasants on a dung heap in the middle of a dust plain can do with a bunch of floating rocks. People with no vision. Not like us.”
A hunchbacked figure shuffled out of the shadows beside him and poked a face out to see the ruin that was the arena, and shuddered. It wasn’t the death that bothered Klud, for the slave-driver had sent hundreds to their deaths for a handful of shins; but the scale of the destruction that had swept over every man, woman and child of the city, the ruin of the arena, and the ferocity of the Narakan army as they wiped out the last remnants, made the hunchback feel insignificant.
Vangar leaned against the doorway, scratching his chin with the tip of the blade while he watched the Narakans process the last of their work, and a movement nearby caught his eye. There, in a cluster of rubble by one of the entrances, was the gladiator Duncan. One of the slave-fighters and two others were holding him up, helping him.
“He’s helpless,” Vangar smiled. “I don’t mind telling you, I’ve thought about killing that murder machine for five long years.”
Klud said nothing, but lifted a hand to touch his broken face, never fully healed from Duncan’s strike on that first night.
The cloaked stranger helping Duncan looked up, stared directly at the two of them on the ledge, and then raised a hand above his head. Something in it flashed, and then the four survivors faded from sight. Vangar looked closely and saw a flicker by the door, as if the four of them had moved impossibly quickly, skipped time for a moment and left.
“They’ve escaped,” Klud grunted out the side of his still-shattered face.
“Only delaying the inevitable,” Vangar put the tip of his blade to his lip. “Revenge can wait. We have wars to fight, a city to raze, and a miracle of the ancient world to pull apart for scrap.”
As if to reply, the shattered wires of the control room beneath their feet sparked and smoked. The brilliant light from below the battle floor flickered and went out. Its power no longer holding up the hundreds of slabs of stone, the entire swirling display began to drop out of the air. Each one to strike the bottom crushed the mechanisms below, causing an explosion in that deep pit. Those that came next clanged musically on the ones below, ear-piercing sounds that reverberated painfully in the acoustic arena so that the two men and the Narakan army covered their ears to shut out the noise. One by one the blocks fell, clanging hard and echoing, again and again and again. A great cloud of dust rose up finally, covering the Narakan army, the hunchback and Vangar in a thick layer of white ash.
When Vangar could think again above the ringing in his ears, he thought long and hard about the death of the gladiator and all those who’d helped him.
Duncan dreamt of freedom, of blowing winds and clouds of dust and smoke, of running through crumbled streets and ruined houses, of the cover of darkness and of fleeing across endless fields of grit and dried grass. The dreams were his, but part of him thought how surreal it all was, for in five years he had not seen anything beyond the four walls of his cell and the great arena ring. He had forgotten what grass looked like and could not remember the distant line of a horizon against endless sky. Blissful pain overcame him from time to time, and then the embrace of welcome darkness.
Duncan lay with his on the ground as a cold wind blew upon him, but already his arms were tucked to his sides to keep in the warmth. He felt hands on his back moving up and down his spin, over his shoulders, the back of his head. Adjustments were made, things attached and removed, and the distinct sensation of paralysis. Voices were speaking, he could hear them, but he didn’t care to listen. His head was numb, empty of desire to move, to think, and so calmly quiet.
“Wake, Duncan, and rise,” the sensation of the will of another washed over him. Someone had commanded him, but it was not Angmarcus. Disappointment came next, that the rush of freedom was over again. His body lit up along with his mind, and he felt life return to him. The tactical part of his mind had returned, and it began to calculate options, his surroundings. He pushed himself up and saw the others standing around him.
The first face was a blonde man with a thin moustache and bright grey eyes. He was slim and athletic, wearing no shirt but with thick bandages across his chest, and others wrapped about his forearms. His hands were on his belt, inches away from the hilts of two light blades and the holster of a small hand-sized crossbow. He was watching Duncan for signs of hostility, but hiding it well behind a casual stance and facade of being at ease.
“Well, looks like you made it out after all,” he quipped.
Next was the farmer, standing behind him and wearing a white tunic and breeches. His black hair was washed, and he seemed well rested. He carried no weapon, unlike the others, but had a look of profound relief on his face as he looked at Duncan.
Last was the nano-sorcerer from the arena, kneeling next to him and looking intently into his eyes. His was a kind face with pale skin, lips a deep blue and eyes that had an intense look of knowing and amusement. He was scanning Duncan as a craftsman would a piece of work he’d finished before selling it. Beneath his rough-spun cloak he had a collection of pouches and tools, devices and curiosities.
“I am Xeran, prophet of Aeon, and I have spent the last week repairing you,” he said, finishing his check with a look of satisfaction. “This other is Zak, a fellow traveller if a sceptic. And you know this other, Tomen, whose life you took such pains to save. In the time since the battle we had to find parts that could fit the implants that were damaged. You are a most incredible creation, a wonder of the ancients, and have given me much to think on. As has this.”
In one hand was the device Angmarcus had used to enslave him. The nano-sorcerer held it up before Duncan’s face.
“This belongs to you,” he said, offering the device for Duncan to take it. “As we were leaving I heard it calling to me from just outside the arena. It had the... sound of you, you could say, and it seemed wise to keep you together. It survived a fall from a great height, but the one who wore it did not, I’m afraid. I hope that news is not a burden to you.”
“Angmarcus,” Duncan rumbled. It wasn’t. He reached for the device but his hand stopped in the air. He strained as hard as he could, but could not bring himself to touch it. Duncan clenched his fist in frustration, for as long as the wand existed and was out of his control, his freedom was under threat.
“As I thought, it’s been warded to prevent you touching it,” Xeran muttered, tucking the wand into his belt. He looked into Duncan’s eyes and spoke plainly. “It will be safe with me if I keep it. Safer than not knowing where it is.”
“And where am I?” Duncan grunted.
He looked about and saw they were in a ramshackle house built out of a sandstone cave. There was a table made of old planks nailed together, covered with tools and bits of scrap metal, glass jars filled with pins and needles made of gold, jugs of colored fluids, a flame sitting at the tip of a metal cylinder attached to a glass tank by a hose, and dozens of other such oddities. The walls had shelves bolted to or carved into them, covered in other knick-knacks as well as several books, pots and pans, and more glass jars filled with herbs. At the far end of the cave was a steel box with an iron grate across it, a cobbled-together oven whose flame flickered and caused shadows to dance about the back wall.
“Formerly my hermitage and workshop, but I think it’s time to move on,” Xeran said. “The Narakans have nested in the ruins of Katan and refugees flee to the hills. This world is not hospitable to wanderers in the wilds, and I would go and gather those I can and guide them to safe haven. Already we have begun.”
“Da!” a child burst in through the curtain over the cave entrance and ran for the leg of the farmer, Tomen. He bent down and swept the child up, a young girl in a white skirt with hair lightened by the sun, and held her on his hip. She hugged him around the neck and squeezed, while Tomen closed his eyes and returned the hug with a look of extreme content.
“Zohe, we’re still busy in here,” he said, but the child continued to squeeze his neck. He looked at Duncan, emotion welling up in his face. “This is my daughter, Zohe. I never thought I’d see her again, but you saved me. We are a family again because of you.”
“Zohe, come back here,” came a woman’s voice from outside, and in through the curtain came a young woman with light hair like her daughter’s, who stopped short and gasped at the sight of Duncan sitting up. She was afraid of him, but tried to hide it. “You got it to work.”
“Yes, they did,” Duncan rumbled, the hum in his voice noticeable. He stood up and had to bend to avoid the roof of the cave. Tomen stood there, and his daughter reached up towards Duncan, touching one of the glowing discs on Duncan’s arm and trying to pull at it. Tomen’s wife, however, shrank back from him a step. Tomen’s wife pulled on his sleeve, and he gave her their daughter to hold.
“We should let you rest. We owe you so much. Thank you,” Tomen said, and took Duncan’s hand and shook it. Then he and his family turned and walked out of the cave.
To Duncan, the farmer and his family reminded him of memories of his life before. The farmer looked not unlike he had, though years older than when he’d been enslaved.
“I have no idea where to go,” Duncan shook his head.
“It’s a big world,” Zak shrugged, and leaned against the table. “Lots of people like that who could use your help against what’s out there. We could use your help finding some of them, then you could see what you want to do next. Unless you just want to go off and find another arena.”
“No more arenas,” Duncan grunted.
“The first step is not a step, but opening our eyes,” Xeran said, and motioned towards the entrance. “Why not see for yourself and decide?”
Duncan took a deep breath, and saw his greatsword leaned against the doorway. He reached down and took it up, pulled aside the curtain, and walked out into the darkness.
This option allows the PC's to create and improve their vessels, similar to the standard creation and advancement of a character. Along with allowing the PC's to give their ship a personal touch, this option allows GM's to design encounters by using the normal method of assigning a Difficulty Level to NPC and enemy crafts. Ships fall into three categories based on their size and capabilities: Galleons, Daggers and Cypherics.
Like characters, ships have stat pools, edge, effort, skills and abilities. Ships only begin the game with stat pools, edge and effort, but can gain Skills and Abilities by advancing with XP.
Ship Stat Pools:
Integrity: Describes the ships structural and damage resistance capabilities. Tasks involved with this stat include Defense during collisions.
Maneuverability: Describes the ships movement and handling capabilities. Tasks involved with this stat include Defense to avoid attacks.
Engineering: Describes the ships navigation and weapon capabilities. Tasks involved with this stat include ship-to-ship attacks.
A ship can use its own Effort to reduce the Difficulty Level of ship only tasks, including but not limited to Attacks and Defenses. Ships also have the unique maneuvers below, which are used in addition to the ships normal action for the round.
Using Integrity Effort can increase a ships Armor by 1 for every level of Effort used. The Armor increase lasts for 1 round.
Using Maneuvering Effort double the ships effective movement. The increased movement lasts for 1 round and 1 additional round for every level of Effort used.
Using Engineering Effort adds 3 damage to one attack or 1 damage to all attacks for every level of Effort used. The increase to damage lasts for 1 round.
When a group gains the use of a ship and the GM decides to use the Ship's as Characters option, the PC's and GM should choose an initial descriptor for the ship. Ship descriptors offer a one-time package of extra advantages and modifications to the ship's stat Pools. Not all of a descriptor’s offerings are positive modifications, each descriptor has a disadvantage as well. With the GM's approval and if the story dictates, the descriptor of the ship can change in the game.
This section details the following descriptors: Advanced, Armored, Assaulting, Evasive, Invading and Quick. Choose one of them for your ship. You can pick any descriptor you wish regardless of whether your ship is a Galleon, Dagger or Cypheric.
+4 Engineering Points.
Ship's weapon attacks deal 1 additional damage.
Crew's Repair Ship Difficulty Levels are reduced by one step.
Ship's quick fix action only recovers half as many points
+4 Integrity Points.
+1 to ships armor.
Crew's gain 1 armor regarding collisions or crew damage attacks.
Ship's Maneuverability Defense Difficulty Levels are increased by one step.
+4 Engineering Points.
Ship's gain 1 additional attack per round that deals 2 damage.
Crew's attacks deal 1 additional damage during Deck Battles.
Ship's armor is reduced by 1 or the ship takes 1 additional damage from attacks if it has 0 armor.
+4 Maneuverability Points.
Ships maneuver tasks to evade being boarded are reduced by one step.
Crew's defense Difficulty Levels during Deck Battles are reduced by one step.
Ship's attack Difficulty Levels during a surprise round are increased by one step.
+4 Integrity Points.
Ships maneuver tasks to board another ship are reduced by one step.
Crew's attack Difficulty Levels during Deck Battles are reduced by one step.
Ship's main weapons deal 1 less damage.
+4 Maneuverability Points.
Ship's movement is increased to the next speed category. Fast movement ships move half again as fast as other fast ships
Crew's Speed Defense Difficulty Levels are reduced by one step on crew damage attacks.
Reduce the cargo capacity of the ship by half.
Ship Types and Starting Stats
Galleon: These large bodied ships are very tough and resistant to damage. They usually only carry 1 large and powerful weapon system and can carry up to 1500 tons of cargo. Speed: Slow
1 Effort, 2 Armor, 1 Weapon Attack per Round, 6 Weapon Damage
Integrity: 16 (1 Edge), Maneuverability: 10 (0 Edge), Engineering: 7 (0 Edge)
Dagger: These sleek, medium armored ships are versatile and quick. They have the ability to maneuver around slower ships and attack with more than one weapon system and can carry up to 400 tons of cargo. Speed: Fast
1 Effort, 1 Armor, 2 Weapon Attacks per Round, 3 Weapon Damage
Integrity: 10 (0 Edge), Maneuverability: 13 (1 Edge), Engineering: 10 (0 Edge)
Cypheric: These small ships have vastly superior engineering, capable of using numenera to its fullest capacity. They have multiple weapons systems, but is not armored and can carry up to 50 tons of cargo. Speed: Normal
1 Effort, 0 Armor, 3 Weapon Attacks per Round, 2 Weapon Damage
Integrity: 7 (0 Edge), Maneuverability: 10 (0 Edge), Engineering: 16 (1 Edge)
Repair Ship: More permanent repairs can be made out of combat with time and skill of a crew member trained in Ship Repair, and can be made once per day for each trained PC. One PC can attempt these repairs at a time, restoring points to a stat Pool of that PC's choice. The repairman decides how many points they want to repair, and then make an Intellect action with a difficulty equal to that number. For example, if they wanted to repair the ship for 3 points, that’s a difficulty 3 task with a target number of 9. Being skilled in Ship Repair reduces the difficulty of this task.
The three types of ships above each have a movement listed. Because the ships as characters option can be applied to any kind of ship (space, air, water, land), the speeds of each can be completely varied. This speeds listed (fast, normal, slow) allows the PC's and GM to know what the players and NPC's ship's speeds are compared to others in the same category. For example, a fast Dagger water-craft is faster than a normal Cypheric water-craft and both are faster than a slow Galleon water-craft; but all three are most likely slower than a slow space-craft.
During ship-to-ship combat, there are a lot of moving parts working to enable the ship to maneuver and attack, which is generally represented by the majority of actions presented in this option. This can sometimes leave some PC's without actions or specific jobs to do while on board a ship in combat. The actions below are options available to the crew and passengers, taking place during the same initiative action as the ship.
Man the Battle Stations: A crew member trained in balance can quickly move to a position to assist with the ship's weapon system before an attack is made in the round. A PC must be trained in balance tasks to attempt this, or spend Effot in a might task to stay on their feet. The Difficulty of this task is equal to the Difficulty Level of the ships attack. Success adds 1 to the damage of the attack if it succeeds.
Quick Fix: A crew member trained in Ship Repair, or one spending Speed Effort to hurry to the damaged area, can attempt a quick repair one time during combat. The Difficulty Level of the task is equal the last amount of damage done to the ship. A quick patch recovers 1d6 +2 per Tier temporary stat points. These temporary stat points disappear after the combat is over, with the permanent damage left to be repaired by a standard Ship Repair action.
Evasive Maneuvers: A crew member trained in Navigation or one spending Inellect Effort to assist the piloting duties of the ship, can attempt to quickly maneuver the ship out of harms way. The PC rolls the ship's Maneuver Defense task to avoid an attack with the Difficulty Level reduced by one step if the PC is using Effort or reduced by the amount of Navigation training or specialization the character has.
To advance a ship to the next tier the players use there own XP and must spend XP once in each of these ways. After each advancement is purchased, the ship goes up to the next Tier. Once the ship is at Tier 3, it can purchase each of the advancements once, but will not gain a Tier.
8 XP to gain 8 stat points (distributed as the players with)
8 XP to buy 2 Edge (distributed as the players wish)
8 XP to buy 2 Levels of Effort
8 XP to buy 2 Skills or Abilities (or 1 and 1)
Purchasing skills with XP grants the crew training and specialization with certain skills, while aboard that specific ship. Each type of Ship offers different skills at different Tiers.
1.) The crew is trained in Attacks during Deck Battles.
2.) The crew is trained in Balance tasks.
1.) The crew is trained in Speed Defense tasks from enemy ship attacks.
2.) The crew is trained in Ship Repair tasks.
1.) The crew is specialized in Balance tasks.
2.) The crew is specialized in Attacks during Deck Battles.
1.) The crew is trained in Ship Repair tasks.
2.) The crew is trained in Speed Defense tasks from enemy ship attacks.
1.) The crew is trained in Balance and Navigation tasks.
2.) The crew is trained in Attacks during Deck Battles.
1.) The crew is specialized in Ship Repair Tasks
2.) The crew is specialized in Speed Defense tasks from enemy ship attacks.
1.) The crew is trained Navigation tasks.
2.) The crew is trained in Defense tasks to avoid numeneric attacks and hazards.
1.) The crew is trained in Speed Defense tasks from enemy ship attacks.
2.) The Crew is trained in Ship Repair Tasks.
1.) The crew is specialized in Navigation tasks.
2.) The crew is specialized in Defense tasks to avoid numeneric attacks and hazards.
Reinforced Armor (2 Integrity Points). The ships armor increases by 1 Point for 1 minute. Action.
Bash (2 Integrity Points). You ram another vessel, damaging the enemy ship as well as its crew. Success deals 4 damage to the ship and 2 damage directly to the total of the enemy ship's boarding party health. PC's reduce the damage to 1 with a successful Speed Defense roll. Action
Secondary Weapon System (4 Integrity Points). You remove part of the ships shielding to reveal a second weapon system. The ship can make a second attack each round for 1 minute. The second attack deals 4 damage and while manning this additional weapon, your ships armor is reduced by 1 point. Action.
Harpago (4 Integrity Points). You move within immediate distance to board an enemy ship before they have time to prepare for action. You immediately begin a Deck Battle with your boarding party (up to 8 crew) gaining a surprise round. Action.
Pierce Hull (6 Integrity Points). You attack a weak point of an enemy ship, crippling its hull. The attack does 6 Maneuverability damage, and reduces its armor by 1 point. The reduced armor lasts until the ship has repaired 3 Maneuverability Points. Action.
Numenera Engine (3 Integrity, 3 Maneuverability, and 3 Engineering Points). You power up a device onboard your ship that mimics the abilities of other ships. Choose any other ship ability, from any ship type; you can use that ability as if your ship possessed it. Action.
Speed Boost (2 Maneuverability Points). Your ship reduces the Difficulty Level of Maneuverability Defense tasks for 1 minute. Action.
Near Collision (2 Maneuverability Points). Your ship moves dangerously close to enemies ship, causing it to make drastic maneuvers. You deal 4 Maneuverability damage and 2 damage directly to the enemy ship's boarding parties total health. PC's reduce the damage to 1 point with a successful Speed Defense roll. Action.
Break Harpago (4 Maneuverability Points). Your ship slips out of the grip of enemy boarding procedures. Even if you fail to beat the enemies Difficulty Level with this ability, your ship's boarding party is not surprised and can act normally on initiative during a Deck Battle. Action.
Dimensional Storage (4 Maneuverability Points). You can create an extra-dimensional space that can store up to 50 cubic feet of material. The space lasts 28 hours, but can be reactivated every day at the same cost. The space is can only be detected by a numenera sensing device or creature of Level 8 or above. Action.
Temporary Drive Shift (6 Maneuverability Points). The ship has a unique numenera device, which when activated can temporarily change the travel phase of the vessel. Air and Space vessels can travel on land and water. Sea vessels can travel in air or on land. Land vessels can travel in the air and on water. At the GM's discretion a ship may change to travel by space or time. These changes last for 28 hours. Action.
Numenera Engine (3 Integrity, 3 Maneuverability, and 3 Engineering Points). You power up a device onboard your ship that mimics the abilities of other ships. Choose any other ship ability, from any ship type; you can use that ability as if your ship possessed it. Action.
Barrage Attack (2 Engineering Points). You can use all 3 or your weapon attacks at once, dealing damage to the enemy ship and crew directly. The attack deals 4 Damage to the ship and reduces the enemy boarding parties starting health by 2 points. PC's reduce this damage to 1 with a successful Speed Defense roll. Action.
Deflector Shields (2 Engineering Points). You can redirect your attacking power to gain armor. Reduce the number of weapon attacks by 2 to gain 2 Armor for 1 minute. Aciton.
Overcharge Weapon Systems (4 Engineering Points). Each of the ships weapon attacks does 4 additional damage this turn. Action.
Autonomous (4 Engineering Points). The ship takes on its own sentience, acting and thinking on its own accord for 28 hours. During that time it has unlimited two-way communication with the designated captain when this power was activated. It follows the commands of the captain, even if he is not on board and can take actions on its own if not directed by the captain. After 28 hours, the ship will find a safe place to moor itself and becomes immobile, until operated again by a sentient creature. Action.
Energy Field (6 Engineering Points). You create a field of energy that surrounds your ship. While the field is active, the ship and its occupants are immune to extreme external environments; heat, cold, electrical, acid and even the vacuum of space. The environment inside the field is set to be comfortable to the crew, including breathable air and gravity. This field lasts for 28 hours, but can be reactivated every day at the same cost. Action.
Numenera Engine (3 Integrity, 3 Maneuverability, and 3 Engineering Points). You power up a device onboard your ship that mimics the abilities of other ships. Choose any other ship ability, from any ship type; you can use that ability as if your ship possessed it. Action.
I posted up links to some good actual plays & reviews here. Check it out!
I am Jankara.
How long have I wandered?
How many years spent running from the ignorant, the superstitious and the obsessed?
I don't know. Twenty years, maybe more.
I've lost time. I see my flesh aging.
How long before it dies? How long before there is nothing left but a helpless mechanical shell. What will you do then Tan Ru? How will you carry out your programming? You need me. Without my body you are nothing but a collection of spare parts.
I hate you. I hate what I have become. A wandering freak, a monster.
Still, without you I am weak...powerless. You have armored my flesh with metal and synth and wrapped my body in a shield of energy. I am stronger and faster. My hands have become lethal weapons. I now see the world through your artificial eye into the very nature of things.
We are connected. I feel your hunger. I know your need to grow. You are driven to build this body. You don't know why, do you? Some part of your original purpose has been lost. You only know that you must find and assimilate new parts.
There is something else. Is it fear? Can you be afraid? Do you feel? I think that our fusion has introduced something new to your programming. Our minds are entangled. Could it be that you are becoming more human, as I am becoming more machine? Are you just echoing the horror I feel, or is it your own?
I am tired. We have battled so long. I feel your attempts to dominate my mind. You have tried to lock my humanity away in some dark corner of this tortured form, but you can't. Yes, I have resisted, but...there is something else...some barrier you cannot cross. We are at an impasse...so, I propose a deal.
Let us become one in mind as well as in body. I know that the fusion can never be complete, but I will no longer resist. Let us join in purpose so that together we may each fulfill our destinies.
What say you?
System Shut Down
Unit Designation: Jankara Tan Ru
Prime Directives: 1. Assemble 2. Assimilate 3. Discover 4.SURVIVE!
We are Jankara Tan Ru.
We are one.
Details posted here.
This adventure assumes that the characters have some experience under their belt. It is recommended that at least one PC have skill with the numenera, and one have skill with navigating the wilderness, as these will come up rather often in the adventure -however, a party lacking these skills ought to be okay but will have a slightly tougher time than otherwise.
In "Ingwald Shin Rush," players will have the opportunity to decide the fate of Ingwald's citizens, and GMs get a handy way to flesh out the rivalry between Gravel-Moresh and Tarae, possibly as part of a larger campaign set in the area.
The southernmost pass through the Black Riage leads to a small town called Ingwald. This anarchous town is nestled at the edge of Garl Nave, and is not only a haven for criminals, but now also the location of a recent industrial boom (and subsequent bust). A few months ago, a young fungal farmer named Jarodis discovered odd bits of shimmering particles in the rocks near his underwater mushroom beds, and realized he had found something important. Jarodis brought the findings to his friend in Ingwald, and the secret was out - numenera and shins were collecting in the riverbeds of Garl Nave, albeit in small quantities. Enough that patient individuals could garner a livable income just by panning in the area.
As word spread to Seshar and the old Pytharon Empire, more and more panners made their way to Ingwald. This brought a huge influx of transients who spend their days along the banks of the Welbyway salvaging shins. The Ingwald Shin Rush was officially under way. Around that same time, a series of green lightning storms had inexplicably started sweeping the area by night, but in the day it is business as usual - and lucrative at that. So far, thousands of shins have turned up, and ambitious mining outfits have made their camps here to carve shins out of the ancient rock walls that surround the Welbyway. And the pirates in the area couldn't be happier. They have little need for there usual thieving ways when their coffers are full from all the recent merchant traffic anyway. Things seemed great.
A string of a half-dozen gruesome murders in the forests north of Ingwald had the people on the outskirts worried at one point. It was believed some wild animal had been rending the corpses of those that were found, and eaten the rest. A hunter claims to have dealt with the threat, but another murder happened just two nights ago; this time much closer to Ingwald. Then, to top off the city's misfortune, a weird disease began to affect those in the entire region. The visitors reported feeling vibrant and energetic, and residents felt the same way as well. The residents noticed a further peculiarity though; they were all appearing to grow younger.
This was met with delighted confusion at first. The oldest citizens noticed first that their wrinkles withered away, their color brightened up, and day by day they would appear a year or more younger. The younger citizens would likewise feel younger, but quickly felt a decline in their health that surprised the town. People under 30 have rapidly fallen into coma, and some of the youngest in comas are already dying. This week alone, a dozen citizens died, and 1 transient (around since the start of the Shin Rush) is also dead. The kids are already dead, leaving the people in a distraught state of shock.
The prognosis for the town is grim. The mysterious ailment has a full progression such that the afflicted age in reverse to the look of a young teenager (about 13 years old), gaining vivacity and energy to a point, then suddenly losing muscle and bone mass rapidly. The affected then fall into a deep coma, while some die within a few days. With no apparent cause, and no cure in sight, there is unrest among those still present in the city.
Of course, the talk of disease also spread quickly among those who had recently moved, and suddenly, people aren't so interested in coming to Ingwald. Many lifelong locals have fled to Jargolamis or Luigolamis, leaving the local population down to a few hundred. Half of which is already in coma. Abandoned businesses designed to mine out the shores of the Welbyway dot the landscape, and dozens of emergency care buildings litter the streets of Ingwald. Local and inter-regional commerce and industry is at a standstill.
The cause of the recent issues is two-fold. The recent shins are a byproduct of an an alien craft parked in an underwater wave, buried for ages by layers upon layers of sediment and rock. When the cave shifted long ago, pieces of the ship began spilling in to the underground rivers leading down from the southern peaks of the Black Riage. Over many millenia, massive geological forces cause them to be embedded and littered across the area's river walls. Erosion and other planetary forces led to the lowering of the Welbyway's water level, revealing its valuable treasure over time.
A recent shift in the ship's location caused an interaction between the ancient transdimensional technology and other highly advanced numenera aboard, opening a momentary rift in our existence and releasing a powerful machine into this world. This crazed machine is programmed to assimilate salvaged numenera bits - shins - into other automatons, and is called a disassembler. The runoff from the processing is filtering into the water supply of Ingwald and the surrounding areas, and those who drink it are having their DNA attacked by temporal nanites still present in the machine.
The disassembler makes its home about halfway upstream where a large concentration of the shins are gathering due to the rock formations there. The adventurers will need to first investigate the streams to find evidence of the greater concentrations thereof, or follow rumors of recent murders to find a trail leading to the disassembler's "home." It is not there when they arrive, but they find the evidence of its passing. In addition, clues that this area is linked to the reason for the recent diseases are present in the flora and fauna nearby. If they remain in the area, they must endure a green lightning storm that ensues throughout, deactivating any numenera in the area. If they can fight and kill the disassembler, it sinks to the bottom of the waterfall pool and clatters into the rock formation there. Swimming down reveals the entrance to the underwater cave, which leads to an entrance to the alien ship and a pocket of air.
The disassembler must be stopped, or the human citizens of Ingwald eventually die, leaving Gravish-Morel to his fate. In addition, if the disassembler devours all the shins and numenera, it stops visiting our dimension, leaving behind an unruly army of automatons with random cypher weapons with which the party might have to deal. The ship's transdimensional computers need to be located and deactivated, or the storms (which are actually transdimensional distortions) will continue to get worse, eventually deactivating all the numenera in the area for a longer time. Perhaps the old leader of Ingwald, Tarae (whose location is a mystery), is not in the area when all this begins, but relocates back and discovers the PCs involvement and recent dispersal of his rival's forces in the city. This might draw the PCs into a power struggle that affects the area's long term survival (which, the area's water should return to normal within a couple months of the disassembler finishing its assimilation). This opens plentiful opportunities for this adventure to be the start of a much grander campaign involving a power struggle between Gravish-Morel and Tarae, or the exploration of the alien ship.
GETTING THE PLAYERS INVOLVED
The lattimor leader in Ingwald, Gravish-Morel, and many other mutants and abhumans seem immune to the effect, but he is nonetheless highly concerned - most of his regime is comprised of humans who are now incapacitated, leaving him a sitting duck for the man he replaced, Tarae, to make his move to retake the city. Gravish-Morel would rather die than admit defeat by leaving, but he could feel his tiny empire crumbling and wants desperately to save it. In an attempt to find a cause and take action, a team of nanos was hired. However, when they were sent to investigate the surrounding area for clues, they did not return from their expedition. They were last seen in the forests to the north of Ingwald, higher in the Garl Nave than the city. There, a family spotted the nanos leaving to the north excitedly.
In the wake of the recent disappearances, Gravish-Morel is desperate, and just put out an open call for anyone willing to help. Signs are posted in distant lands extend a lofty offer for shared ownership in the local businesses there to those whose aid leads to the discovery and cure for this strange affliction.
Before beginning the adventure, each PC should establish his or her reason for being in the area (although if they are strangers, or are affiliated with Gravish-Morel's pirate bands, they might not have shared this information with another).
Options Include the Following:
- They came here to sell dry goods, and are now stuck with hundreds of boxes of wagon covers and canvas.
- They saw the notices and are here to collect on Gravish-Morel's offer.
- They are here to pan shins from the banks of the river, and in their haste did not hear about the recent strangeness affecting the locals.
- They hope to catch the green lightning storms in action while they last.
- They are thieves, new to the area, trying to earn favor with Gravish-Morel.
- They are lost on their way to somewhere else.
- They have heard rumors of a "motherlode" stash of shins somewhere in the Garl Nave area.
- They are under the direction of another group (like the Order of Truth) to investigate the recent phenomena and take action if possible.
- They are hunting for the lost entrance to the subterranean civilization below Mt. Jaspar, in order to investigate the rumors that the abhumans there have a life-giving machine.
- They are here on their way to reach and scale the monumental cliffs of Titanic Ridge.
During 20 years of playing RPGs, I have noticed many game masters prefer to stick to safe plots. I don't think of one of those snobs who laments gamers preferring stock plots, but I wonder if game masters can take storytelling risks without derailing their campaigns. Instead of presenting players with clearly defined heroes and villains, I wonder what happens if game masters present players with people who oppose them and let the players draw their own conclusions about the NPCs.
I think this tendency toward stock characters come from the alignment system backed into Dungeons and Dragons. Most gamers I know cut their teeth on Dungeons and Dragons before deciding they would like to try other games. There is nothing inherently wrong with a simpler game, but I think I would love to take some risks myself.
Greetings everyone. So the first Episode of my Numenera campaign is up for your perusal. I figured now that I have some distance from actually running the session I would give you my thoughts. Tell you what I think worked what I think didn't, what I intended to happen and other such goodies. So needless to say spoilers will follow....
You can read the Retrospective at the Ninth World Chronicles Blog
If you missed the Podcast you can find it at the blog or directly from this link: The Ninth World Chronicles Episode 1: Travelers
I included the link to my Google Doc where I wrote the focus, Merges with Plants, for my players. Feel free to provide feedback on the doc itself (handy for inline references) or here.
I am also in need of a cool picture for the focus, but so far all I can think to throw in there would be a picture of Poison Ivy. Suggestions welcome for that as well.