The Sacred Prison

The following is my first self-created campaign. I thought I would post my notes of the location and adventure to see if any one else is interested.

Location:

The city of Laddock may look idyllic at first, but few would be able to guess its true history. It is located just east of a vast forest in the Iscobal region. The city is shaped like a five pointed star. There is a translucent blue-hued energy shield that surrounds the city. The guards who operate the force field don't know how that powerful piece of numenera works, but know enough to operate the four openings to the force field that can open large enough to fit transports, or small enough to fit individual people. There are ancient towers located inside just inside the point of each force field, and attached to the top of each tower is a large metallic chain that stretches out into the sky to a palace that floats above the city.

The city itself is prosperous and welcoming. Most of the city are wooden structures built in the last 100-200 years. The only exceptions being of that are the palace itself, the towers, the guard structure, and a few random buildings. It is located along on major trade routes, and gets a lot of good business.  It's place on the trade routes means there are many well stocked shops that offer all kinds of material, provided you can pay the price.

But the true purpose of the city is that it was in fact built as a mighty prison centuries ago. Inside the palace, at the very top level, there is an ancient device that once activated will open a portal to the prison where a terrible beast called a Neveri is captured (See the Bestiary, page 91.)

Summary:

Baron Berrich Vordanal. (level 5, level 7 for intimidation and persuasion) was a relatively good ruler. He, like the men and women before him, inherited the power over Laddock. But he married for love, not for inheritance, much to the chagrin of the nobility of the region. His love was Lerick, the daughter of the town baker, and she quickly became a popular Baroness. In fact, many thought she was the true power behind the throne because she cared more about her people than the Baron did. But that all changed one day when she was walking through the market and was struck a numenera device wielded by a stranger. The device made her fall into a deep sleep. The local Aeon Priest, Yrisa, did all she could to wake her but to no avail. The Baron locked himself in his tower and watched over her, day and night, growing increasingly distant and angry. Then a few months later an old man named Ferros came into the city who promised the Baron that if the Baron would help him locate a few artifacts, then Ferros could awaken her. The Baron quickly agreed and fell within Ferros’ influence. Ferros has been sending out parties seeking powerful pieces of numenera for months now. When Yrisa tried to question it, Ferros had the Baron burn her tower to the ground and she went into hiding.

The truth is Ferros was responsible for what happened to the Baroness. He is an agent of the Convergence, and seeks to unleash the creature that lives inside the prison. He had the Baron obtain a mind control device, and plans to use it to control the Neveri once it is released.

The players can get involved in a variety of ways. I had my players encounter the Baron’s agents in their adventures to build up the threat, and then they decided they had to take out the Baron before ever arriving in Laddock. It could also work to simply have them arrive in Laddock and be approached by Yrisa for help.  

Encounter 1: Planning for the ball

When the players first arrive in town, they notice some commotion in the town square. The deposed former Queen’s sons, Bren and Kor Sarromere, are arriving along with various servants and staff. (See Corebook, page 158.) They arrive at the very center of town, which is a circular pad directly underneath the floating palace. The Baron appears out of the air in front of them and bids them welcome. The players soon hear that the Baron will be hosting a ball in their honor tomorrow night.

Sometime after, the players are slipped a note written by the former Aeon Priest, Yrisa, to meet her at a lumber yard run by a family of Lattimore’s on the east side of town. Once they get there, they find Yrisa hiding in a basement. She explains to the players what happened to the Baroness (or what she knows of what happened at least). She originally came to Laddock because the wealth of numenera to study in the vast forest nearby. And in that capacity she had gathered an extensive record of all the artifacts in the surrounding area. The Baron seized her records and used that to send out his raiding parties. But she managed to hide her most dangerous notes in the lining of a satchel. The satchel was seized by the Baron’s men and placed in a safe in the royal palace. It contains a map to a dangerous device that her notes indicate can unlock a portal to another world. She then asks the players to get it back.

At this point, if the players agree, the next stage is to find tickets into the ball. Here are some ways to find tickets.

There is a group of travelling minstrels in town. If a player has experience in entertainment, she might be able to get them to let her perform with them at the ball.

All the major business owners in town have a ticket. They could be stolen or bartered with.

The shadier elements in town have already stolen a ticket. A player could purchase a ticket off of them for a premium price, or if they are feeling daring they could gamble for the ticket, provided they have something worth putting up.

A player could also be hired as a waiter for the ball.

Alternatively, if players do not want to find tickets, they could break into the ball by climbing up the large chains that connect Laddock’s towers to the palace.

Encounter 2: Theft at the ball

The ball is held in the main throne room of the palace. The room is gigantic, taking up one entire floor. There are tables set out for the guests, and at the end of the room is the throne where the Baron sits. As the ball progresses, various people will walk up to talk to the Baron and you can  see him doing some sort of business deal with the Sarromere brothers. The objective is to get to the second level of the palace where the vault is, down the hall from the break room for the palace guards. To get inside, the players will need to find a way to cause a distraction, or to sneak past with a cypher or artifact. The vault itself is locked with a level 6 lock. It contains 2 d6 cyphers, 1 d100 shins, and a random artifact. You can also find the satchel there. Once the players have it, they must find a way to escape, or to evade detection entirely and leave with the guests. If the theft is discovered while the players are still in the palace, they will have to withstand interrogation by Ferros and his vicious Glaive bodyguard Gregor.

Encounter 3: The Glove

After getting out of the palace, the players then need to identify the clues found in Yrisa’s notes. They could try and identify it themselves (a difficulty 7 task), or take it to Yrisa to have her do it for them. After looking through her notes, and comparing to what she has, she can finally tell you what she has learned of the artifact the Baron seeks. It is something with great magical power. It is located underneath a town, in a building that she has identified to be currently used for food storage. The building is made of the same material that the palace is. Whatever it’s original purpose is, the town now uses it for food storage because it is unnaturally cold inside. It is not normally guarded and all the players must do is get past a simple lock to get inside. Once inside, the room is fairly small, with meat hanging from the ceiling, and grain in some storage bins on the side. If the players look around, they will find a secret panel that opens up to an elevator leading downward.

The elevator opens up to a hallway. The lights flicker on as the players enter. On one side of the hallway, there is a room with tables and strange devices spread around. With some searching, players could find two cyphers there. On the other side, there is a pool with a control panel. The pool is a dark viscous liquid. If the players manage to figure out the panel (a difficulty 4 task), they could operate an arm that extends from the ceiling that will pull a random artifact out of the water.

At the end of the hallway, is a second elevator that leads down to a large circular chamber. Upon entering, it is clear that the chamber was once beautiful and opulent, but now it has long since deteriorated. Water drips from holes in the ceiling. Nature itself has retaken the room  as plants grow from walls. And a lone figure sits in an elevated char in the center. As the players walk in, the creature stirs and looks at them. It describes itself as the Protector. It will ask to “test” the players to see if they are worthy. If a player volunteers, the Protector will place a gloved hand on top of the player's head. A series of tendrils comes out of the glove and into the player’s brain.The player must make a level 5 intellect roll. On a successful roll, they will look down to find the glove is now in their hand. If they fail, they will suffer 10 points of intellect damage and go down one on the damage track. If the player succeeds, the Protector will disappear into a portal created by it.

Once finished, the player’s can exit through the same elevator that they took down. If they do, they will find the Ferros waiting for them with his bodyguard Gregor and a group of guards. He will then reveal that he let them take the plans on purpose so they would lead him here. The group can try and fight back (which will be a difficult battle), or allow themselves to be taken. Alternatively, if the player’s search the circular chamber carefully they could find a partially collapsed tunnel leading to another part of Laddock.

Encounter 4: The gate is opened

Ferro and the Baron takes the player’s to a small chamber at the top of the palace. Inside there is a strange device made of synth. It comes out of the ground and forms a half-circle. Once the player who has the glove enters the chamber, the device reacts and comes to life. The space inside the half circle is filled with a shimmering energy. At this point, the Neveri will slowly emerge from the portal. Ferros attempts to use his mind control device on the Neveri but it fails, which causes Ferros and Gregor to flee immediately using some sort of device. The player’s will then need to defeat the very difficult creature and trap it back inside its cage. The player who has the glove can, with an appropriately high roll, seek to understand its power enough to close the portal again.

Optional adventure:

It is possible to cure the Baroness. The secret to doing so is held by Ferros. The man who first used the numenera device on her is being held in prison in the main guard house. He could be convinced by the players to reveal the truth. Alternatively, you could discover the truth from Ferros' bodyguard, Gregor. Gregor is a vicious bully but he is afraid of Ferros. If the players manage to get to the third level of the palace, they could find Ferros’ chamber, and in it there is a note of the three words that must be said over the Baroness body to awaken her. If they do manage to do so, the Baron would turn on Ferros.

Comments

  • I like this. A lot. The setting is intriguing, I like the star-shaped city and the floating palace. Maybe the palace can be made to lower and fits over the city like a lid? Don't know why you'd do this, but it sounds weird.
     Have you actually run all of this yet? I'd like to see some play write-ups
  • Isn't this the story you asked for help with the events at the ball a while ago?  It sounds incredibly familiar.  I like the write up though.  I think Jester is right in that it could benefit from having a few weirder elements, but I think that it is probably a matter of taste.  Good adventure though, Keep it up!
  • Thanks! I did play through this once already. It takes about two sessions. Later today I can do a play write up about all my players did. 

    And I agree about the weird elements. Weird and unexplained events are what make numenera fun. I do like the idea of the Palace lowering, though in my head the Palace is not as big as the town itself. I described it as sort of bobbing up and down in the air, like the chains are the only things holding it to the earth. One thing I considered as a possibility, though it didn't happen in my playthrough, is that if the Averi takes over the palace, the players could figure out some way of releasing  or destroying the chains so that the palace floats away. 

    One thing I was going to do, if any one asked, was that if they looked at the force field that surrounds the town they could see that it seemed to shimmer in a different way depending on the time of day and who is observing it. There are some people in the town who believe that the force field is communicating with them and have spent their lives studying it, but every time someone gets close the force field changes entirely. 

    And Stolentime, yes this is the one! Thanks for the help. It helped to make the ball itself weird and fun. 
  • Ok. What about if the palace does fit onto the city like a lid and then it turns out that the whole thing is actually a giant colony space transport and is capable of interstellar flight? A good way to introduce 'Into the Night'. This could also explain the force field (deflector screen and possible the drive system itself)
  • Hmm that is an interesting idea. I think if you were to do that then you could make it like once the Averi is unleashed then the contingency plan is the city is launched into space? That could be an interesting way to start out Into the Night. That would also mean that the player's would have to deal with living on a star ship with a lot of other people. 

    The thing I really enjoyed about the adventure is that I tried to think about how the world of numenera is built on this other world, and over time the true purposes of things get lost. In this case, if you take away all the trappings of the city, it does look like a prison, it has walls, guard towers, and a huge central prison cell (complete with chains). But over time people settled there because it is safe and convenient and now it looks more like an idyllic and prosperous town. My players loved that aspect because it finally clicked for them at the end. 

    In any case I promised you a write-up. 

    I had tried to hint at this problem for a few prior adventures, both of which were in Weird Discoveries. First, in Please Help Us, the players came across the Baron's men looking for devices. That is where I first started to come up with the idea that would later became Laddock. I thought about what other reason could a Baron want a mind control device? The players were able to recover the mind control device. They had a tense debate about whether to destroy it or keep it, and they chose to keep it. Second, in Natural and Unnatural, I built in the idea that the Baron's men had taken something from a nearby ruin, which caused the water pollution. So I wanted to build up the idea of the Baron in their mind and give them a reason to go to Laddock. 

    When they arrived in Laddock, the first thing they did was go to a bar to gather information. I offered them a lower class bar, or a high class bar. They went to the lower class one. While there, they started to gather information, while of course getting in the usual trouble. One player (a graceful jack who fights with panache) got caught cheating at gambling. Another player tried to smooth talk the bar owner. Etc. In any case, they were slipped a note under a beer glass to go to the Lumber Yard. 

    Once they got there, they got the story from Yrisa. And decided to seek out the tickets. Here is how each player found a way in: 
    •  Jido (intelligent jack who explores dark places), purchased some climbing gear to climb the chains. He asked if Yrisa had any connections in the town, so I thought it was reasonable to say that she had allies left in the town guard who could get him into one of the towers leading up to the chains. 
    • Vesper (intelligent, Nano, who enterains), had a past history of working in entertainment. I had her old carnival troupe be in town then and they happily let her join for the performance at the ball. 
    • Elendre (charming Jack who fights with panache) tried to gamble for a ticket. She did poorly and then ended up having to pay quite a lot of money to some of the shadier elements in town to get a ticket. 
    • Protegat (strong glaive who mastered defense) got a job with a bakery in town to work at the party. 
    • Gacharu (Mystical jack who rides the lightning) bribed a barowner for his ticket.
    Now that they had their tickets, the ball began. At the ball, Vesper sang and entertained the party guests. They also observed the Sarromere's brother's do some sort of deal with the baron. Vesper was able to talk with them as a performer and learned it was some powerful artifact (but they would not say anything more). I also used this as an opportunity to re-introduce Dracogen's assistant from the Hidden Price adventure, they saw the assistant selling something to the Baron. 

    Working together, the party came up with a plan. Gacharu found a cypher that let her take the visage of a random person. Protegat first helped Gacharu to incapacitate the cook and then she took his image. That allowed her to access the second level to deliver food to the guards. Protegat would use a cypher they found to poison random guests drinks as a distraction if he got the signal. Once Gacharu was able to get past the first guard, Elendre also used an invisibility cypher to follow her up. Elendre was able to sneak past the guards, and get to the safe. Meanwhile, Jido managed to climb up the cables and meet Elendre at a window (who helped him in). Jido and Elendre broke in easily enough and found what they were looking for. They also stole some other random things, just to cover their tracks.

    For a moment, I thought they would get away with it without any one even noticing. But then Gacharu decided she couldn't go back downstairs without the cook noticing her again. So, she decided to throw a rage bomb cypher into the guard room to cause a distraction and then flew out a window using her ride the lighting ability. This of course caused utter chaos to break out. Both Vesper and Protegat had to make fairly difficult rolls to withstand questioning. 

    But they made it out and had their map. The next part went by fairly quickly. They went down into the old ruin. Protegat volunteered to be "tested" and survived. At this point, the player's suspected that there might be a trap waiting for them so they asked if I was "Sure" there was no other exits. Since I like to reward creative thinking, I said there was a halfway collapsed passage. They took that up to a different building in the city. Once back in the city, they then sought to do more investigation. Vesper seduced Gregor and got him to tell her more about what happened. She then let it slip to Gregor that she saw what he was looking for in an abandoned building in town. The player's then decided to stage an elaborate trap for Ferros and Gregor. It consisted of two powerful cypher bombs. But that failed horribly when they rolled 1's. A very hard battle ensued, at which the party was clearly outmatched. Protegat and Jido sacrificed themselves to give space for the rest of the party to escape. 

    At that point, Protegat and Jido were brought to the upper level of the palace. Ferros made him open the portal. The creature came out but once it was clear that the mind control device would not work on it he simply cut through the air with his staff and disappeared with Gregor. Meanwhile, the rest of the party broke back into the palace, found Gregor's room, and were able to bring the Baroness back to consciousness. They then busted into the upper level of the room just as the creature emerged. A very difficult fight started. Protegat figured out that the glove he obtained would also shut the portal. They managed to push the creature back halfway into the portal and closed it, disintegrating the creature. They had previously scanned the creature so they knew they had to imprison its remains as well to prevent it from coming back to life. 

    After it was all over, the Baron and Baroness celebrated them as heroes with many grand gifts. 
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