October 14, 2014

The Fatigue Eater

Numenera does interesting things with characters, effort, and health. They're composed of a trio of pools which act as both a resource pool to use to make tasks easier or attacks more damaging, but they also act as health. It leads to an interesting balancing act where the player must make some sacrifices to avoid getting hit with something terrible, and be strategic about when to cast that giant spell. So what if a monster fed off that resource?

Nivunco, level 2 (4)

The nivunco, or fatigue eater, is a dangerous predator in the Ninth World. Unwelcome in city and wilderness alike, it takes the form of a gaunt, man-sized quadruped covered in long dark hair. It crawls on it's belly on four long limbs, moving in an unpleasantly human manner. Its long body lacks a discernible head, terminating in a hairless snout which writhes and twitches as it sniffs out its prey. 

A fatigue eater has a two-part diet, psychic and physical. It feeds off the fatigue an organism experiences, picking it up as psychic static from miles away. Once the nivunco locates it's quarry it will ceaselessly hunt it down. In many cases the creature will let itself be seen before attacking, heightening the paranoia and stress the quarry feels.

However, the creature's tracking ability hinges on the quarry's fatigue. If the quarry were to remove the fatigue, by sleeping or completing whatever task is so testing than the nivunco would have nothing to track. The greater the stress the more nourishing the nivunco finds its prey. The more psychic distress the prey releases the stronger the creature gets. It's physical and mental capabilities increase in step with the diminished capacity fatigue brings. For every 3 points a  PC spends from their pool, for any reason except damage, the nivunco's level increases by one.

When the fatigue eater has sufficiently softened its prey through harrying tactics it goes for in for the kill. It grapples its quarry with its gangley limbs, beating them into submission with its blunt claws. When its prey has collapsed it uses its long snout to completely drain the body of blood. After sating itself on the lifeblood of its prey it creeps back to its den to sleep off its meal, a process that can often take years.

Motive: Food
Environment: Any wilderness, especially high moors
Health: 12
Damage Inflicted: 3 points
Armor: 0
Movement: Short
Modifications: Tracks at level 7, all other tasks involving their quarry at level 5
Interaction: The nivunco is little smarter than an animal, but telepathic communication is possible. They are simple creatures and could be thrown off by mental effects.

October 08, 2014

Enter the Singing Hill

I've sat on an adventure for the last two years waiting till I had time and everything 1000% perfect before I release it unto the wild. That's never going to happen, so I'm biting the bullet and putting it out up here in it's mostly complete state for the betterment of all mankind. It rough around the edges, but I learned a lot working on it from both a design and procedural standpoint. I wrote it for DCC, but it should work for nearly anything.

Like goblins? Like bees? Like bees and goblins and degenerate underground jerks? Need a low-level dungeon to throw your fresh peasants into? This might serve that need.

February 04, 2014

Threats on the Lake of Woe

Continuing my series on the Lake of Woe, here are two of the biggest threats in the area.
All dragons are forces of entropy. They may put on a veneer of civility but beneath the facade is a drive for the unordering of all things, the breaking down of man and beast and stone into dust and the hastening of the heat death of the universe. It was dragons who looked with hate on the light of the Big Bang, and dragons that will suck the last cold marrow from the universe before taking each other apart in final destruction. Inevitably the land around a dragon is inexorably degraded by its presence.

AC: 1 (18)
HD: 8
Attacks: 2 claws, 1 bite, 1 tail slap, or breath
Damage: 1d6/3d6/1d8/*
Save: F7
Morale: 9
Movement: 30’ Fly 90’ Swim 60’
XP: 2,200

*Brinewing can release a blast of concentrated salt from her mouth in a cone 90’ long and 30’ wide 3 times a day. It deals half her current HP in damage, or save for half that. Anyone caught in the blast is slowed for 1d3+1 rounds from the crust of salt that covers them.

Brinewing’s serpentine body is long and sinuous. Whipcord muscles twitch in stark relief beneath her hide. Her head is heavily plated and topped with a sharp frill that extends like a thorny crown. Her wings are thin and ragged on long finger-like pinions. Her breath is superheated salt, and can strip the water from a man in seconds. Entombing them forever in a briny shell. She is naturally magical, counts as a 6th level magic user, and knows the following spells: Level 1: Putrefy Food and Drink (50’ range), Pass Without Trace, Spider Climb 3/day. Level 2: Invisibility, ESP 2/day. Level 3: Feign Death 1/day

Brinewing is crafty, preferring to weaken intruders to her home long before facing them directly. She will approach a group invisibility and use her magic to ruin their supplies, turning their water to brine and food to rot. Then she will leave them to suffer, letting the arid terrain sap their strength until she feels they’re suitably softened. Only then will she face them directly.

Wandering Psyche
The extreme asceticism the monks of the Clay Palace undertake does strange things to their minds. The hours they spend in a trance state weakens the connection between their physical bodies and causes their minds to drift. After a few decades the mind is almost entirely unhinged from the mortal shell and drifts around the Lake of Woe freely. They appear like numinous strands taking the form of an indistinct humanoid figure. They communicate directly to every mind telepathically, but speak in a endless stream of koans, chants, and stream of consciousness ramblings. Enlightenment gives a wandering psyche an entirely alien motivation, never add modifiers to their reaction roll.

Encounters: 1-3
AC: 3(17)
HD: 4
Attacks: 1 Mantra
Damage: 1d6
Save: F4
Morale: 8
Movement: 30’
XP: 300

A Wandering Psyche recites ceaseless mantras which have supernatural effects on the creatures around them. Each round of combat a Wandering Psyche uses one of the following Mantra:
Brainshock: target save versus spell or take 1d6 damage.
Skinride: the Wandering Psyche attempts to take control of a body as in the Magic Jar spell. Unlike the spell the host’s soul is subsumed, not removed, and may attempt a save versus spell each round at -2 to eject the Wandering Psyche.
Water Vampire: target takes 1d6 Con damage as the Psyche pulls the moisture from their body.
Koan: 30' save versus spell or be affected as Confusion spell

January 16, 2014

The Lake of Woe

The Lake of Woe is a salt lake in an unpeopled corner of wilderness. It is fed by springs descending from the glacial peaks to the east. Five years ago the lake was fresh. When the dragon Brinewing was driven from the western shipping lanes by the sea kings she blocked the lake’s outlets and let it grow brackish. Now the lake is desolate, denuded of all but the hardiest plant life with shores littered with the mummified remains of creatures that have displeased her. The only movement on the shores of the Lake of Woe today are the clouds of flies which cover everything like a vile black carpet.

Brinewing is a salt dragon. She measures thirty feet long in a sickly yellow, muted by a thick crust of salt that has built up on her scales from bathing in the Lake of Woe. She is not particularly intelligent but is vain, territorial, and easily enraged. In place of fire she breathes clouds of superheated salt which burn and desiccate. Her lair lies in the most inhospitable southern sections of the lake on a peninsula of stone and crenelated salt. During the day she is more likely to be found sunning herself on the shores to the east of the lake or flying paranoid circles over her watery territory. The only creatures she permits to approach her presence are her ‘pets,’ the brine shrimp which infest the waters of the lake and can grow to an enormous size.

Hidden in the hills to the west is the Clay Palace, a monastery of salt monks dedicated to achieving enlightenment through self denial and desiccation. The Clay Palace proper is a compound of mud brick building on the shores of the lake, but the coming of Brinewing drove the the monks away. Now it lies abandoned, a ramshackle monument to the dragon’s dominance. The survivors carved out rows of cells along the canyon walls south beyond the dam the dragon created from shattered mountain pinnacles. Here they are protected from the dragon’s sight by overhanging stone. The wisest of their order are little more than leathery husks. Their minds are only lightly tethered to their almost immobile bodies, and drift throughout the region like silent ghosts. Should something threaten the monastery can steal the water from less enlightened monk’s bodies and achieving a lurching mobility. Their mental wanderings have left them utterly without empathy and terrifying in combat.

  1. The buzzing clouds of salt flies become impossibly thick, sucking the moisture from bare skin and creeping into mouths and noses
  2. Salt mephits
  3. The salt crust covering the ground here gives way, uncovering a large sinkhole. Contains: 1-salt water 2-nest of hungry brine shrimp 3-jagged old bones 4-caustic mineral bath 5-meditation chamber of a salt monk 6-treasure
  4. A gale kicks up a wall of acrid dust, cutting visibility to mere feet and scouring unprotected flesh, it lasts for 1d6 hours
  5. 1d6 pilgrims to the Clay Palace. Either 1-3 arriving, or 4-6 departing
  6. The wandering psyche of an elder salt monk
  7. Mummified remains of the dragon’s victims, a quarter of the time the corpses will rise as undead: 1-2 caravan, 1d6 humanoids, 1d4 pack animals 3- 1d6 wolves 4-2d8 herd animals 5-bats 6-giant eagle
  8. A quartet of salt monks carrying the body of an elder on a palanquin
  9. The blasted wreck of a small village, 1 in 6 are inhabited by something horrible
  10. Mirages appear, hauntingly real until touched: 1- rows of saltwhite children 2-oasis 3-attacking army 4-crystal castle 5-apocalyptic vision 6-the dragon
  11. The rainbow-colored crust around this dried pond is a potent drug: 1-2-hallucinogen 3-4-stimulant 5-6-deadly poison
  12. Brinewing appears

More info on Brinewing, the Clay Palace, and a map forthcoming!

January 06, 2014

Numenera: The Aged Daemon and the Mist-Shrouded Tower

This will be the last Numenera session report for a while! The group has dissolved for the holidays, to be picked up some time in 2014. Hopefully. Part 1 Here. Part 2 here.

Blocked from retreat on all sides by the flying creatures the party prepared for a hard fight. Turning to their cyphers the party was quickly able to turn the tide, creating an illusory version of the jumble to distract the fiends and a wall of flame that belched from another device. The battle went well for the group, the distractions and fire were able to quickly dispatch their foes. They continued up the ramp, ascending for what seemed like an eternity up the long spiral to the top. The tunnel opened up into an enormous circular room. The walls looked like glass, looking out they could see a thick miasma of clouds rolling past. The room seemed empty except for a large console in the center of the room, around which several of the flying creatures made agitated orbits.

As they approached the console it the room shook. Every surface in the room pulsed, almost like a heartbeat, then the console began to animate. Panels opened and long skeletal limbs unraveled, and featureless birdlike mask pistoned up on a neck of twisting cables and ceramic plates. Deep in the sockets of the mask lights burned crimson. It was the room, the walls pulsed with its movements. It spoke, but its voice sounded like wind chimes and soft piping. Turning to their cyphers they managed to cobble together a rough translation of the aged daemon’s message. It was hard to follow, as the thing spoke almost entirely in feelings and jargon, and inhuman metaphor. Something had broken in the system the thing was created to oversee. The creatures it had been created to protect were being released but this was wrong. The thing couldn't reach out to its fellows to fix anything.

As it spoke the clouds outside the window thinned, showing the view for what it really way. The view beyond that clouds was the patchwork of fields and wilderness around Jaston viewed from far too high to be coming from the complex the party had explored. This was somewhere else, and when schools of dark bullet-shapes began to drop past the view they knew they had to find some way to stop them. The daemon agreed, but with a terrible sadness.

The group hatched a plan to use flying device they’d found earlier (the Primicarium) to fly up through the clouds to face whatever lay above. Leaving the daemon behind they took the artifact outside and leapt aboard. Their ascent started slowly but sped up as they experimented with the controls. They accelerated through packs of the flying monsters, keeping them at bay with a volley of esoteries and crossbow fire. Leaving the monsters behind they pushed through the clouds. An enormous tower loomed out of the miasma, hanging unsupported in the air.

They entered through a hollow section at the base of the tower. The whole interior of the tower was open and contained thousands of the cubes that contained the flying creatures in stasis. Pushing farther into the tower they discovered another circular room, but instead of clouds the screens showed view of the tower and the creatures awakening within.

This chamber held a matching daemon, but only hate shone out of its hollow eye sockets. It was immediately aggressive, wrapping itself in flying creatures and warping the room with vicious pulses. Sections of floor and ceiling articulated themselves and moved to crush the party. They could barely keep their feet, but attacked as best they could. They'd barely chipped away at the daemon and taken heavy damage from the room when the dashing jack leapt over a section of floor as it swept past and got a perfect shot with his crossbow directly at the daemon. It saw its death then and threw up panels to block it. It couldn't rearrange the room quickly enough to stop the bolt, and with a shriek the bolt pierced the daemon's mask and left a sparking hole out the other side.

The thing let out a shriek and the room gave a tremendous lurch. The tower began to buckle and heave beneath their feet, and they barely had time to claim the thing's mask from its wreck before fleeing back to the Primicarium. They raced to to get away from the falling superstructure, overtaxing their artifact vehicle which shut down right as they reached the ground. They had moments to take cover before the tower crashed to earth reached them. A wall of dust and grit rolled over them as the structure struck the earth with a boom that rolled through their bones. They'd stopped the dark creatures, but the land around Jaston would never be the same.

Suffice to say they weren't especially welcome back in town.

December 17, 2013

Numenera: The Lung Machine and the Primicarium

This is part 2, part 1 is here and part 3 here.

Descending down a spiral ramp the party discover a body slumped against a wall. It was a man, alive but near death. On his neck gaped a set of gills. They were able to revive him by pouring water on these gills, but he was too weak to answer any questions. The stairwell opened into another large chamber, but the way was blocked by an invisible barrier. The jumble was able to push the numbing field and disable the barrier at great physical cost. He disabled the field by tearing open a panel. Atop a pedestal inside was a rectangular device bigger than a man, sitting atop a quartet of heavy wires. The machine shuddered into life as the party inspected it, lifting itself on the articulated cables and opening a door like a great mouth. It swallowed the jumble whole, bound him with metal restraints, and slammed shut with a boom. He managed to keep one arm free and began to hack at the machine with a knife.

The rest of the party tried to free him from outside, slicing through the cables and trying to force the door back open. Meanwhile, the poor jack trapped inside quickly discovered the device’s purpose as a heavy collar locked his head in place and began to remove his lungs. Yes. Remove his lungs. He was able to break free of half the collar with his knife, but the other began to auger away at his neck. The floating kid was able to slide his blade into the crack of the door and with a burst of gravitic force blew the door open. They tore the jack from the machine, slicing through the restraints in a shower of sparks and pale blue gel. The dashing man pulled the stricken jack free then destroyed the machine with a flurry of crossbow bolts into its internal mechanics. The pitiful jack scrabbled at the collar around his neck for a moment before pulling it free, trailing several feet of tubing from the long slits cauterized cleanly on his neck.

The man had gills. Only one set. That pulsed ineffectually in the thin air on one side of his neck.

Everyone freaked out for a moment then.

Picking over the remains of the Lung Machine they discovered an artifact, another collar. They discovered it would work like as a gas exchange, and returning to the dying man in the hall fitted it around his neck. It unfolded like a jacobean ruff and almost immediately color began to return to the man’s face. He introduced himself as Gabex, a numenera hunter who had traveled to these ruins with a group. All he could remember was pushing through the field, then everything going black. He begged the group to take him along, and they let him follow along behind.

Finding no other exits they went back outside to try the other passage. The other passage smelled of woodsmoke. A wide room beyond had been turned into a camp, the remains of a fire smoldered on the pale floor, and gear and blankets were strewn about. Also a body, chewed up like the remains at Genson’s steading. Beyond was a long hall with several adjoining rooms, some broken open, some still sealed. In one room they found large cubes of ancient material that horn when touched and seemed lighter than they should have been for their size. Using a cypher they looked through the walls, and decided to break into a chamber of deep blue pools. This proved to be something of a mistake as the water in the pools animated and attempted to drown the group. They were able to keep the water weirds at bay with their esoteries, and managed to sneak past them and collect a cache of cyphers from a pool of acid by luring the weirds into it.

In another room they found a long silvery device made of coiled cables and plates nearly 8 feet long, resting on a series of short pedestals. On one end it had something like a saddle but in the place of reigns it had only a series of inset holes in a mysterious pattern. By experimentation with the holes the group discovered that it could be made to float into the air. Deciding to leave it for further study later, they traveled further along the hallways to a spiral ramp that led upward. They found dark cylinders filled with dark shapes In alcoves set in the outer wall of the ramp. When touched they began to dissolve, releasing one of the dark creatures that attacked them at the farm. Turning to flee they found their way blocked by more of the flying things descending from the ramp above!


The Lung Machine (Level 5)
Gill Ruff
This slab-like machine moves about on four thick articulated cables. It has a large door on its front which is usually leaves ajar, tempting the curious to investigate. Its original programming corrupted eons ago, and now it lies in wait like a crocodile. It will attempt to snap up anyone who comes close (GM Intrusion.) PCs have one round to escape before the Lung Machine’s  internal restraints lock in place. After that it will begin to bore out the character’s lungs and replace them with a set of gills. This takes 5 rounds and will deal 2 Might damage a round. If deactivated the Lung Machine contains 5 cypers including a Gill Ruff, a device worn around the neck that allows a gilled humanoid to breathe air safely. Should the machine be more drastically dispatched the ruff has a 50% of being damaged and unusable.

The Primicarium
Taking the form of a seven foot long needle composed of tightly wrapped cables and plates, the Primicarium is a flying machine from a lost age. It has a saddle-like indentation at one end inset with a series of deep holes in a precise configuration. These are actually controls for ascent, descent, and speed, and with some experimentation anyone can learn to pilot the vehicle. It handles and accelerates slowly, but the upper limit is beyond a human’s ability to stay on. On discovery it will have power for up to 1d6 hours of flight, after which it will become inert. Refueling a Primicarium is an adventure in itself.

Primicarium controls

December 06, 2013

Numenera: the Scuttling Vivisctors and the Aquarium

For the last few months I've been running Numenera. It’s been a lot of fun, the system is light enough to grasp immediately but with enough hooks and crunchy bits to keep it all from feeling too samey. It’s setting drifts far enough from standard fantasy to let me go very weird early and often. The one rule my brain can never remember is GM Intrusion. Any time you would pixel bitch or whatever a player in another game you instead offer a GM Intrusion. If they accept they get XP and bad things happen to them. If not then nothing. All those times my players should have said “We search the room!” and instead walk into certain doom I must preface with “Would you like to be hosed?” I should give my players a little flag to wave when I screw them over to remind me about it. A session report follows:
Meanwhile, in the Ninth World, word had begun to spread that a cache of numenera had been discovered somewhere outside Jaston. Being of a parochial sort the locals wouldn't touch the stuff, so traders, thieves, and greedy folk of all sorts were descending on the town. This included the party, a dashing jack in a hat, a shady nano cobbled together from spare parts and meat, and a chilling glaive wielding a glass sword. After a short stop in Jaston, long enough to piss off an entire bar, punch their way out, and pick up a floating local nanokid, they set off in the direction of the crevasse where the numenera had been found. After a day’s travel they stopped at Genson’s farm. The place was deserted, with nothing but a half-mad, badly wounded aneen still alive. The discovery of a trapdoor in the main house led them into the basement, but not before releasing a pair of shadowy, flying things into the evening air. The remains of Genson and his family were found below with horrible weals and deep bites marring their forms.
Their paranoia raised, the party barricaded themselves inside the farmhouse and set watch for the night. Soon a tremendous banging began at the windows and doors as somethings tried to force its way inside. The black squamous things had returned with their brood, forcing up the door and windows and flying inside. The group repelled the creatures with esotery and bolt, and was nearly overwhelmed before a timely kitchen fire drove the things off, leaving one of their number oozing black ichor and sparking in its death throes. The party decided to sleep the rest of the night in the open air, protected by a roaring bonfire.
After an uneasy night in the open the group continued on to the crevasse. It cut a deep scar across the rolling plains, bisecting an ancient ruin. A long hallway lay open to the air, pale stone or synth gleaming at the bottom. After a short climb they reached the closest tunnel. Through it was a large round chamber filled with glowing symbols that made slow pirouettes around the room, while smaller gleaming discs scattered and wheeled like schools of fish. The discs were attracted the party, but gave painful shocks to whoever they touched. This distracted everyone from the scuttling vivisectors hidden behind the swirling holograms. These lobster-like synthetics had arrays of scalpels and surgical tools on long articulated arms with which they attempted to implant the discs into the group’s bodies. After a confusing melee the vivisectors and most of the discs lay in pieces on the dusty floor. We ended the session there.
The Aquarium
This circular room is full of confusing holographic displays and a cloud of schooling AI. Hiding behind the displays are scuttling vivisectors.

Schooling AI are small discs that float freely in the air and deliver jolts to whatever they touch. They are controlled by simple processes that keep them moving in schools throughout a set area. These are level 1 foes, but they cannot be hit by normal weapons. PC’s in the area of a school of these things take a point of Might damage each round from electric shock, ignoring armor.

Scuttling Vivisectors are synthetic creatures that look similar to marine lobsters, but bristle with surgical tools. They are level 2 foes, but hide at Level 3. They will attempt to implant Schooling AI discs into PC’s on a successful attack. Implanted discs deal an extra point of damage each round. PC’s with 4 or more discs implanted will be lifted into the air and all actions will be one step more difficult.

This is part 1 of 3. Part 2 is here. Part 3 is here.