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Weird Discoveries is a collection of ten “Instant Adventures” for Numenera. The concept behind these instant adventures is basically what I talked about in Opening Your Gaming Table. I’ll let Monte Cook explain:Numenera: Weird Discoveries - Monte Cook

It’s Friday night. Your friends have gathered at your house. Someone asks, “What should we do tonight?” One person suggests watching a movie, but everyone else is in the mood for a game. You’ve got lots of board games, and that seems like the obvious solution, because they don’t take any more time to prepare than it takes to set up the board and the pieces.

Those of us who love roleplaying games have encountered this situation a thousand times. We’d love to suggest an RPG for the evening, but everyone knows you can’t just spontaneously play a roleplaying game, right? The game master has to prepare a scenario, the players need to create characters, and all this takes a lot of time and thought.

Cook’s solution to this problem is to create one-shot scenarios in a custom format that makes it possible for the GM to run a four hour session after quickly skimming 4-6 pages of information.

This basically boils down into three parts:

First, a two page description of the scenario’s background and initial hook.

Second, a two page spread that generally looks something like this

Weird Discoveries - Two Page Spread

and which contains the entire scenario. (This two page spread is the only thing you’ll need to look at while running the adventure.)

Third, an additional two pages of additional details that you can use to flesh out the scenario. (These pages are optional. If you don’t have time to read them, the evocative details they provide can easily be replaced by material improvised by the GM.)

The basic idea is that these scenarios give Numenera the same commitment profile as a board game: You pull out the rulebooks and dice. You quickly explain the rules. You hand out pregen characters to the players. And while they’re looking over their character sheets, you spend two or three minutes quickly reviewing a scenario.

Then you play for three or four hours and… that’s it. No prior prep commitment. No long-term commitment from the players. Just pick it up and play it.

WHERE THIS GOES A LITTLE WONKY

First, there’s the weird decision to kick off this book of stand-alone one-shots with two linked scenarios where one is clearly the sequel of the other. (The first scenario is “gaining access to the pyramid” and the second is “exploring the pyramid”.) This isn’t the end of the world and if those had been given at the end of the book as a sort of variant on the form, it probably would have been fine. But one of these scenarios is actually used as the free promo for the book, and I actually held off buying it for awhile because it appeared that the book wasn’t actually delivering on its promise.

Another bit of wonkiness comes from the way that Cook tries to streamline the presentation of the scenarios through the use of Keys. Each Key is some essential element of the scenario which could potentially be found in several different locations within the scenario. Each key is given a symbol, which is then used to indicate the locations where that key can be found.

For example, in a mystery scenario a Key might be:

Evidence that Supect A is innocent.

And that Key might be indicated by a little blue triangle. Then you look at the two page spread and you might see an NPC marked with a blue triangle, and their description will include:

If Bob is the KEY, then if the PCs really grill him, he’ll eventually admit that he saw Suspect A on the opposite side of town at the time of the murder.

In general, you’ll see two or three different places in the scenario where that little blue triangle shows up. That basically mirrors the redundancy suggested by the Three Clue Rule and it makes a lot of sense. And highlighting those essential bits with a visual cue in the form of the Key symbol also makes sense, because it flags the importance of including that bit for the GM.

A couple things mess this up, however: First, the table that tells you what each symbol means ISN’T located on the two page spread. So the simple elegance of the two-page spread is marred because you keep flipping back to that essential information.

Second, the “if” nature of the Keys tends to make it much more difficult to run the scenarios cleanly. The intention seems to be that the GM should control the pacing of when these keys are triggered, but in practice trying to keep track of the locations where a particular key is available (and whether or not this might be the last opportunity for it) requires a totality of understanding for the scenario which stands in sharp contrast with the goal of being able to run it off-the-cuff. (For off-the-cuff stuff, I generally want to be able to focus on the content directly in front of my nose without having to think about distant portions of the scenario.)

In general, you can probably just ignore the “if” portion of the text and run most of the scenarios with the Keys present in all of their potential locations. There are a handful of scenarios, however, where you can’t do this. (For example, a “missing piece” of a machine which can be in several different locations and actually be completely different things.)

In any case, these scenarios would be better if the keys were simply hardcoded. And I’d recommend altering them in whatever manner necessary to make that true before running them.

BAFFLING CARTOGRAPHY

The other thing that doesn’t quite work are, unfortunately, the two-page spreads themselves. These take two forms.

First, there are flowcharts which show how the PCs can move from one scene to another. (Go to the home of the murder suspect and find a clue that points to where the murder suspect is.) These mostly work fine, although there are a few scenarios with mysterious extra arrows that don’t actually represent any tangible information. (The intention with some of these seems to be “the PCs are done here and can now go follow a lead from another location”, but that’s ideographically confusing because the arrow implies that there is a lead here that should take you there.)

Second, and unfortunately more prevalent, are the spreads based around maps surrounded by blobs of text that have arrows pointing to various sections of the map.

The best of these are the dungeons, because they at least make sense. But they’re not very good dungeons. One keeps talking about how you can explore beyond the rooms shown on the map… except there are no exits from the rooms on the map. The other is composed of mostly empty rooms. And in both cases, most of the room descriptions don’t match the visual representation of the room that they’re pointing at.

This is because, as far as I can tell, the maps were drawn largely at random and then the various bits of content were “associated” with the maps by drawing arrows that just kind of point at whatever’s convenient. And this is even more apparent when you look at some of the other two-page spreads. For example, consider the spread we looked at before:

Weird Discoveries - Two Page Spread

That’s supposed to be the map of a city. Except it obviously is not. And one of the content bubbles is “three dead bodies lie here”… except the associated arrow points into the middle of a wall. Another content bubble is “monster that’s explicitly moving around in the ruins”, but it has an arrow pointing to a very specific (and obviously completely meaningless) location

Another common technique here is “rough sketch of a wilderness area that’s radically out of scale with random arrows pointing at it”.

WHY IT DOESN’T MATTER

Because the scenarios are really good.

They cover a wide variety of nifty ideas backed up with fantastic art that’s designed to be shown to your players as evocative handouts (instead of featuring imaginary PCs doing things).

And despite my quibbles with some of the shortcomings of the presentation, the basic concept of the two-page spread fundamentally works: The maps and arrows don’t make any sense, but the essential content is nonetheless packaged in a format that makes it easy to simply pick up the adventure and run it with no prep time at all.

For my personal use, I’ll be basically ignoring all of the maps and using the content bubbles as either random encounters or logical progressions of an investigation (depending on the exigencies of the scenario). And I’ll take the time to lock down the Keys in a more concrete fashion, but I’m not anticipating that taking any more than 5-10 minutes per scenario, which is not an undue burden.

Ultimately, with ten full adventures, this book is incredibly valuable and I’m going to be getting dozens of hours of play out of it.

The final reason why the book’s shortcomings ultimately don’t matter, however, is because the roleplaying industry desperately needs more books like this: The board game renaissance is palpably demonstrating the power of memetically viral games that can be picked up and played as part of an evening’s entertainment. Games like Mice & Mystics and Mansions of Madness clearly demonstrate that the only reason traditional roleplaying games can’t hop on that bandwagon is because we’ve systematically ghettoized ourselves as an industry and as a hobby by embracing long-term, dedicated play as the only form of play.

With Numenera as its flagship, Monte Cook Games is fighting to change that. And I’m more than happy to help them out. (Particularly since their game is so much damn fun.)

Style: 4
Substance: 4

Author: Monte Cook
Publisher: Monte Cook Games
Print Cost: $24.99
PDF Cost: $9.99
Page Count: 96
ISBN: 978-1939979339

Numenera Tavern

July 28th, 2015

Numenera - Monte Cook GamesOne of the tricks to running Numenera is to avoid falling back on your D&D-bred reflexes and having the game world default to a fantasy feeling. Although superficially similar to D&D fantasy due to its renaissance trappings, that’s not what the world of Numenera is: It’s a mélange of science fantasy on the far side of a billion years and eight mega-civilizations.

Keeping that in mind is the inspiration behind this techno-weird tavern. Whether you use it as a respite between adventures, a pit stop on a long and dusty road, or as an introductory mini-scenario to orient your players to the nature of Numenera, you’ll hopefully find it suffused with the unique flavor of the Ninth World.

(You could also take the various bar games and activities and split them up into multiple taverns, each with its own particular focus.)

GETTING A TABLE

The place is crowded, but it shouldn’t be too difficult to cadge a table near the center of the modular, multi-chambered, multi-tiered tavern (particularly if they slip a shin or two to the hostess).

Directly above their table is a gravity glide: Get a good push off and you’ll glide through an antigravity zone from one balcony to another. (Screw it up and you’ll end up drifting helplessly until someone lassos you.)

SAVANNAH MENU

A large, sunken table with a dome of shimmering energy atop it. The interior of the table appears to be a diorama depicting a miniature savannah dotted with small copses of trees, but on closer inspection you can see herds of animals moving across the grasslands.

A large, harpoon-like contraption is attached to the lip of the table and can be moved around its circumference on a rail. (You can sight through the energy fields built into the harpoon and use it to shoot one of the miniature creatures moving through the diorama.)

Menu-Tender: “It’s two shins per shot!” (That means if you can make the first shot, you’ll get a discount on your meal. If it takes two shots, you’re breaking even. Three or more and you’re paying a premium for your lousy aim.)

Making the Shot: Herds of gallen (long-bodied, herbivorous animals), shiul (massive, four-horned creatures), and ul’un (catfish-like creatures that levitate above the grasses and glide across the savannah).

It’s a Speed task (difficulty 4) to make the shot. On a success, the harpoon drags the creature up through the surface of the table (where it emerges full-size and ready to be cooked).

Herd in Miniature

CHROMERIDING

A sleek, bullet-like shape about six feet long levitates a foot or so off the floor of the pit at the center of one of the tavern modules. A saddle-like depression notches into its top.

As potential riders approach the chromerider, their shins tingle. (This is due to an energy field. See below.)

Rider Rating: A dial can be set from 1 to 5. (The task difficulty of the ride is equal to the dial setting + 1.)

Chromeriding: This works like a Chase (Numenera, pg. 100). The rider must succeed on a number of Speed tasks equal to the task difficulty they selected. If the rider ever has more failures than successes, they’re thrown off the chromerider. (Riders who are thrown off land in a cushioning energy field that lines the bottom of the pit.)

Description of the Ride: Each round it becomes more and more difficult to remain on the chromerider.

  • Round 1: The chromerider bucks like a bronco.
  • Round 2: The chromerider spins around the horizontal axis.
  • Round 3: The chromerider spins around the vertical axis.
  • Round 4: The chromerider tries to scrape the rider off on the metal poles surrounding the riding pit.
  • Round 5: The chromerider splits into four pieces and tries to fly off in different directions. The rider must succeed on a Might task to hold the pieces together. Alternatively, a Speed task can be made at +1 difficulty to stay on just one of the smaller pieces.
  • Round 6: The ceiling dilates open and the chromerider rockets straight up into the sky. (On future rounds, repeat the previous rounds… but now they’re 50 feet up in the air.)

JEMARA

Jemara is a form of choral karaoke. On a stage at one end of the tavern, there’s a free-standing arch made from sort of coral-like material, silver-and-red in color.

Stepping Through the Arch of Jemara: As one steps through the arch, a temporal schism occurs and they’re split into multiple duplicates of themselves all sharing a confusing, mirrored single consciousness.

This is an open success Intellect task: The level of success determines how many duplicates successfully emerge.

Performance: Ask the player what song they’re performing. The lyrics appear on their retina, super-imposed simultaneously across their many fields of vision. The Arch of Jemara pulses with light and projects music.

The singer(s) can make another open success Intellect task, using the Helping rules (Numenera, pg. 101) to gain a +1 bonus to their die roll for each temporal duplicate. The GM should use the result to determine the reaction of the crowd.

After the performance is done, the temporal schism ends and the duplicates vanish (although they may still flicker in and out of existence in an aura around the performer for a few minutes longer).

WARP DARTS

The warp dart board hangs in the middle of a long aisle. The trick is that the aisle is filled with gravity inversion fields, which means that the darts don’t travel in straight lines. (And the highest value targets are on the back side and edges of the board.)

Competition: If the PCs challenge each other, resolve the warp dart competition as a PC vs. PC Speed task (see Numenera, pg. 98). Highest result wins. (Let the victor describe their winning throw.)

A Challenger Appears: A level 6 NPC shows up, challenges the winner of the previous game, and offers a bet of 5 shins on the outcome.

PINANJU

A matte-black, fully-articulated mannequin stands in the center of a geodesic dome formed from silver filaments.

When activated, Pinanju is a martial arts simulator: The players must duplicate the movements of the mannequin while the dome generates holographic opponents. The game can be played cooperatively (using the Helping rules) or competitively (seeing who fails a combat check first).

Opponent Selection:

  • Street Urchins (Difficulty 2)
  • Glaives of the Beyond (Difficulty 3)
  • Margr Beast Warriors (Difficulty 4 – Numenera, pg. 244)
  • Angulan Knights (Difficulty 5 – Numenera, pg. 224)
  • Gaian Witch-Ninjas (Difficulty 6)

(In the context of Pinanju, the actual stats of these opponents aren’t important. But you might like to show the PCs a picture of what they’re facing off against.)

A game of Pinanju is resolved in four rounds:

Basic Combat: Might or Speed task (using the difficulty of the selected opponent).

Covering Fire: During this round, the player must avoid the attacks of “bonus enemies” who pop up around the perimeter of the Pinanju ring by succeeding on a Speed task. On a failure, their next combat check is made at +1 difficulty. (These avoidance moves have to be improvised around the set routine presented by the Pinanju automaton.)

Basic Combat 2: Another Might or Speed task.

Swarm: In the final round, four opponents appear simultaneously. They effectively act as a swarm, requiring the player to make their Might or Speed task at +1 difficulty.

TOROID TOSS

Players receive a toroidal ring that slithers to the touch but not to the eye. They have to toss the toroid over a prize-winning peg at the far end of a strangely slanted court. However, the tossing lane is filled with dimensional fields – as the toroid passes through them, it reappears in seemingly random locations (often changing direction or the like).

Initial Cost: Requires 2 Intellect to plot out a potentially successful path through the dimensional fields. (If this initial cost is not paid, any throw is essentially random and has only a 1 in 20 chance of paying out.)

Final Toss: Speed task (difficulty 6). On success, receive a random oddity.

Yesterday I posted a scenario for Numenera called “The Last Precept of the Seventh Mask“. The scenario features multiple religious sects fighting for control of the body of the Seventh Mask (a religious leader denoted by the strange, mask-like biotech growth which extrudes from their face). The basic idea is that the PCs will approach the camp of one of these sects, get hired to protect them on their journey to the aldeia of Embered Peaks, and then be forced to deal with the other factions in an orgy of violence and collusion and zealotry.

But when I ran the scenario? That’s not what happened.

THE STARSCRIPT CAVERN

The Narthex - Numenera

The PCs in this campaign have been traveling around inside the Narthex. You don’t need to know much about the Narthex except that it’s bigger on the inside than the outside and that it teleports semi-randomly around the landscape of the Ninth World. (If you want to basically think of it as a TARDIS that doesn’t travel through time and can’t leave the planet its currently on, you wouldn’t be too far wrong. Except this particular TARDIS is populated by a group of religious zealots that the PCs have inadvertently ended up being in charge of. But I digress.)

For this particular scenario the Narthex was going to appear at a location they couldn’t predict. It was important, therefore, for the local resident expert to look at the starscape above their arrival point to figure out where they had ended up. When they emerged from the Narthex, they found themselves inside a giant cavern with walls covered in ancient runes that glowed with a faint silver light. The starscript writing described the Narthex as a holy relic, but whoever had worshiped the Narthex here was long dead and gone.

As they emerged from the cavern, however, to gaze up at the stars above, they saw the lights of a camp further down the side of the mountain.

RAVAGE BEAR DELIGHT

The camp itself was tucked out of sight behind some tall outcroppings of rock, but they could hear the distant sounds of the people who were resting down there.

The idea here should be pretty obvious: I expected them to go down to the camp. There they would meet the Bensal kokutai and Fassare would ask for their help in guarding the body of the Seventh Mask on its journey to Embered Peaks.

But that’s not what happened.

Instead, they decided to simply keep quite, take their star readings, and retreat back to the Narthex.

So I checked my notes. What would happen next?

Well, a pack of six ravage bears was supposed to attack the Bensal kokutai encampment that night. So they did. The PCs heard the roar of the ravage bears (and identified them) as they rushed the camp.

Once again, the intention should be obvious: I expected the PCs to rush down to help the unknown campers. They could drive off the ravage bears and–

Nope.

The PCs had suffered a previous encounter with a pair of ravage bears and their bodies still bore the scars to prove it. Six of them? No, thank you. They rolled up their star charts and ran back to the Narthex with the screams of the ravage bears’ victims echoing in their ears.

IN THE MORNING’S LIGHT

The next morning the PCs came back out of the Narthex and went down to investigate the camp. The ravage bears had… well, ravaged it. Tents were shredded. Dismembered limbs and half-devoured bodies were strewn about. It was clear that several more bodies had been dragged away from the site.

The only incongruous element was the bier of the Seventh Mask, which I decided had been left undisturbed by the ravage bears. Two of the PCs — Laevra and Sheera — were incredibly creeped out by this and the biotech, mask-like growth on the corpse’s face didn’t help matters much. While Laevra, the nano, examined the mask, another PC — Phyros, a clever jack who employs magnetism — decided it would be funny to program his morphable mask to look exactly like the biotech extrusion. Laevra and Sheera, for their part, were largely unamused.

Laevra eventually concluded that there was still living activity within the biotech of the mask. The group fell into a debate about whether or not they should cut it off the corpse: Laevra had curiosity on her side. Phyros, for all of his monkeying about with the morphable mask, was legitimately concerned that it might be infectious or dangerous.

While this debate continued, I decided to have a group of Caral kokutai show up on their flying platform. Since the Caral kokutai had been stalking the Bensal kokutai, this made sense. I also thought it might offer me an opportunity to re-hook the scenario: The Caral were just as interested in transporting the Seventh Mask to Embered Peaks. Like the Bensal kokutai, the Caral kokutai would also be concerned by the other factions in the area and could easily ask the PCs for help.

Of course, that’s not what happened.

APOTHEOITES

Remember that Phyros had made his morphable mask look just like the Seventh Mask?

Yeah.

As the energy platform of the Caral kokutai swept down into the grotto, their initial hostility towards finding the PCs standing in the midst of the carnage melted away into confusion as Phyros presented himself as the Eighth Mask. This story wasn’t completely plausible: Generally speaking, the Eighth Mask — as a reincarnation of the Seventh Mask — should have been no more than a babe. But with an extremely glib tongue, Phyros managed to sow enough confusion to convince the Caral kokutai scouts they should bring their leader, Moora, to him. (It helped that he was able to spin the gory deaths of the Bensal kokutai as being some sort of “righteous fury” directed upon heathen unbelievers.) Then, with a major effect on a final persuasion role, he convinced them that there were secret rites he needed to perform with the body of the Seventh Mask in secret. That meant that all of the Caral kokutai left, planning to return shortly with Moora.

So what were the “secret rites” that Phyros needed to perform?

Well, as it turned out, they entailed grabbing the body of the Seventh Mask and hightailing it back to the Narthex.

Entering the Narthex, it should be noted, means taking a liftshaft (i.e., elevator) down into a vast, extradimensional space. Exiting the liftshaft, you enter the Nave: A seemingly bottomless (and topless) shaft crisscrossed with gantries and catwalks.

As soon as the PCs reached the Nave in this particular case, they hauled the Seventh Mask’s corpse out of the lift, sliced the mask off its face (revealing a featureless face of fresh, baby-like flesh), pocketed the mask, and then dumped the corpse over the railing into the abyssal darkness below while resolving not to leave the Narthex again until it had jumped to a new location.

THE END

The best part? This is the third time that Phyros has ended up falsely presenting himself as a religious icon or deity. He’s not even doing it on purpose!

There are probably a lot of GMs who would look at this sequence of events as a failure of some sort. The PCs “wrecked the scenario”. My preparation was “ruined”.

But if you take a moment to look at how I actually prepped this scenario, you’ll note that I was never actually wedded to a particular outcome. Instead, as I described in Don’t Prep Plots, I created a kit with a number of tools:

  • The starscript cavern
  • The kokutai culture and their religious beliefs
  • The corpse of the Seventh Mask
  • The Bensal, Caral, and Gatha kokutai
  • The chirogs
  • The ravage bears
  • The map of the local area

And while I would have liked to have gotten the Gatha kokutai and the chirogs involved, the reality is that most of those tools got used. Virtually none of them got used the way that I had expected, but the scenes that actually played out were really entertaining and insightful and memorable largely because they were unexpected. The table was filled with laughter and there were also some really meaningful questions asked about who they had become as individuals when they ran and left the Bensal to their fate.

Now, if I had invested a lot of time into carefully preparing schedules of ambushes for the road from the Bensal camp to Embered Peaks? Then I would have wasted a lot of time and had a lot of prep “ruined” by what happened. So I’m glad that I emphasized smart prep and trusted my instincts at the table to handle the rest.

This adventure for Numenera is designed as a prequel to “The Beale of Boregal” scenario from the core rulebook. For my Wandering Walk campaign I felt the events of “Beale” would be enhanced if the PCs were already familiar with the aldeia of Embered Peaks and the peculiar properties of its numenera.

BACKGROUND

The kokutai is a hive religion made up from many different factions (each of which is also referred to as a kokutai). The kokutai as a whole is led by the Mask, a holy leader marked by his or her Visage of the Seventh Maskface: A strange, mask-like biotech growth which extrudes into a faceless visage.

Before their death, each Mask is supposed to reveal the identity of their next reincarnation in the form of a prophetic riddle. Solving this riddle (a process referred to as the Race of the Riddle) is meant to be a competition between the kokutai, with the winning kokutai (i.e., the one who finds the next incarnation of the Mask) receiving favor for their particular teachings within the religion.

The Seventh Mask, however, failed to deliver a riddle before his death. Some kokutai are interpreting this as a riddle in itself. The Bensal kokutai, however, have a different plan: They are carrying the body of the Seventh Mask to the aldeia of Embered Peaks, where it is said that the devoirs possess a machine which allows them to as a single question of the deceased. If they can uniquely receive guidance from the Seventh Mask through the devoirs, they’ll have an obvious and significant advantage in finding the Eighth Mask and securing their position of dominance within the kokutai.

THE MASK: If surgically detached, the mask functions as yesterglass when worn by another. (See Artifacts & Oddities 1, pg. 8.) The kokutai are unamused by this sacrilege.

THE HOOK

While traveling, the PCs spot the camp of the Bensal kokutai. Fassare, their leader, is concerned: Her scouts have disappeared and she has been receiving dreams of black prophecy during her meditations over the body of the Seventh Mask. She wants to hire the PCs as bodyguards and escorts to see the Bensal kokutai expedition safely through to Embered Peaks. She can offer them in payment:

If the PCs push for more information, Fassare will tell them that she fears that they are being hunted by “apotheoite kokutai”. These false worshipers, according to Fassare, seek to find the Seventh Mask’s body and destroy it.

Alternative Hook: They could be directly hired to track down the Bensal and steal the corpse of the Seventh Mask. Their employer could be another faction of the kokutai (including those described below), a bizarre collector, or a time-traveling version of the Seventh Mask intent on creating a trans-temporal rumor (depending on how weird you want to get).

THE JOURNEY

Map of the Embered Peaks Region - Numenera

1. BENSAL CAMPSITE: Where the PCs meet the Bensal kokutai for the firs time.

2. SCRUB BRUSH PASS: There’s a pass which cuts between the peaks here and heads straight to Embered Peaks. It has an artificial look to it and, unlike the surrounding landscape, is filled with scrub brush giving way to a brown and desiccated forest.It’ll cut time off the trip, but it gives unique opportunities for ambush.

3. GEYSER OF DUST: Going the long way around the mountains takes longer. Here you pass a geyser of dust which plumes perpetually thirty feet into the air. (It can be seen from about about 7 miles away.)

EMBERED PEAKS: Nestled in the palm of a mountain that looks like a giant seven-fingered hand (from which the town takes its name).

THE FIRST NIGHT

During the first night, the Bensal kokutai camp is attacked by six ravage bears. (This attack is a coincidence and has nothing to do with the hostile forces arrayed against the Bensal’s mission.)

Ravage Bears - NumeneraIf the PCs track the ravage bears back to their lair, they will find two ravage bear pups.

RAVAGE BEARS (x6): L4, health 30, damage 7, armor 1

  • Movement: Long
  • Might defense L6.
  • Runs, climbs, and jumps at L7.
  • Ravage Grasp: Grab foes with powerful arms. Victim suffers 4 points of damage per turn in addition to damage from attacks.
  • Fury: If it takes more than 10 points of damage, reduce defense by one step and increase attacks by one step.
  • Blind: Immune to visual effects. Olfactory effects can confuse and “blind” it temporarily.

BENSAL KOKUTAI

The Bensal kokutai was favored by the Seventh Mask. Their leader is Fassare, who is intent on retaining her kokutai’s favor during the time of the Eighth Mask.

FASSARE: L5, health 15, damage 3, armor 1.

  • Defend at L6.
  • Resist mental effects at L6.
  • Gain 4 Armor for 10 minutes via a force field device implanted in her cerebellum.
  • Minor telekinesis (from same device).

BENSAL KOKUTAI WARRIORS (x8): L2, health 6, damage 4, armor 1. Speed defense L3 (due to shield)

OPPOSING FORCE: CARAL KOKUTAI

The Caral kokutai think the Bensal kokutai’s plan is a great idea… they just want to do it themselves. Their primary interest is taking control of the Seventh Mask’s body and taking it to Embered Peaks. (And if they have to do it over the dead bodies of the Bensal, that’s fine.)

ATTACK PLATFORMS (L8): The Caral have access to briefcase-sized cyphers that, when activated, separate into four parts which form the corners of a solid energy field that can be used to fly through the sky with 4-6 people.

  • Energy Weapon: 8 points of damage. (The perimeter of the attack platform pulses, coalesces, and then expels the energyform.)
  • Duration: 1d4 hours of flight
  • Movement: Long

The Caral have three of these platforms, although they’re likely to only use two in their first attack.

MOORA: L5, health 15, damage 3, dual wields a pair of ray emitters. Moora dual-wields ray emitters.

  • Ray Emitter – Concentrated Light (L8): 200 feet, 8 damage, 1 in 1d6 depletion
  • Ray Emitter – Concentrated Light (L5): 200 feet, 5 damage, 1 in 1d6 depletion

CARAL KOKUTAI WARLORDS (x2): L4, health 15, damage 4, armor 3. Speed defense L6 (due to shield)

CARAL KOKUTAI WARRIORS (x12): L2, health 6, damage 4, armor 1. Speed defense L3 (due to shield)

OPPOSING FORCE: GATHA KOKUTAI

The Gatha kokutai believes that the Bensal kokutai’s plan is a sacrilegious corruption of the Seventh Mask’s body. They’re more bloody-minded than that the Caral and seek to wipe out the “Bensal apotheoites” and their “Bensal heresy”.

LIGHTNING FENCE (L5): The Gatha have four reality spikes (Numenera, pg. 293) which can be activated in conjunction to form a four-sided fence of lightning  15 feet high. Passing through the fence inflicts 5 ambient damage. (They’ll use the fence in an effort to divide the Bensal’s forces and, if possible, isolate the Seventh Mask’s Body.)

MIGALA: L5, health 15, damage 5. Attacks at L6. Resists mental effects at L6. Migala carries a bandolier of detonations. Roll on the Cypher Danger Chart (Numenera, pg. 279) once per encounter.

  • 8 detonations (Numenera, pg. 284; determine randomly)
  • Detonation (gravity) (Numenera, pg. 284)

GATHA KOKUTAI WARLORD: L4, health 15, damage 4, armor 3. Speed defense L6 (due to shield)

GATHA KOKUTAI WARRIORS (x15): L2, health 6, damage 4, armor 1. Speed defense L3 (due to shield)

CHIROGSChirog - Numenera

A local chirog tribe has become aware of the Bensal’s pyred procession. Like all chirogs, they despise numenera. Because they consider the body of the Seventh Mask to be a numenera relic, they now seek to destroy it.

The pack leader does not speak, but is surrounded by a choir of three alpha males who speak for her in alternating voices.

CHIROG PACK MEMBERS: See Numenera, pg. 235.

PACK LEADER: L4. Has a mental attack that inflicts 4 Intellect damage (bypassing armor).

ALPHA MALES (x3): L5, health 18, damage 6, armor 4.

TACTICAL NOTES

This scenario should not be run as a simple string of three mass combats. The various kokutai and chirogs should use varied tactics; retreat in the face of unexpected danger or loss; and the like. A few thoughts:

  • One group or another may attempt to suborn the PCs, either by convincing them that the Bensal kokutai are in the wrong or simply promising to pay more for their services.
  • A kokutai group that has been badly damaged might try to parley with the Bensal kokutai. (Or ally with the other kokutai, allowing for a joint assault featuring both attack platforms and a second lightning fence.)
  • The Bensal kokutai might ask the PCs to approach one of the harrassing apotheoite kokutai in order to form an alliance against a common enemy. (For example, the Gatha might be convinced to forgive their heresy and protect the Seventh Mask’s holy vessel from the chirog. Or the Caral might be convinced to help them drive off the Gatha in order to assure that the riddle of the Seventh Mask can be discovered.)
  • The Caral might launch a stealth operation to steal the body (either during the night or while the PCs are distracted by an attack from another group). The scenario could turn into either tracking them down or racing them to Embered Peaks.

If the players are losing interest, it’s probably time to launch an all-out assault to finish things up. Or go the other way and have a kokutai appear on the horizon, give a ceremonial chant of mutual respect, and then leave (signaling the permanent end of the conflict).

Embered Peaks itself can make a good location for a final ambush. It will provide a distinct environment from the overland ambushes and encounters and you can get innocent bystandarers involved and/or caught in the crossfire.

Note that the opposition presented here assumes that the Bensal kokutai will be assisting the PCs. (You may wish to use my rules for NPC allies.) Without assistance, PCs — particularly low-tier PCs — will find themselves rapidly overrun by the powerful factions seeking the Seventh Mask.

Tales from the Table: Precepts of the Seventh Mask in Actual Play

Untested Numenera: NPC Allies

November 19th, 2014

Numenera - Monte Cook GamesNumenera features player-facing mechanics: Whenever an action requires diced resolution, it’s always the player who rolls the dice. If a PC is being attacked, the player rolls to dodge. If the PC is attacking, the player rolls to hit. There are a lot of advantages to this system, particularly in the ways that it seamlessly interacts with the pool-spend, GM intrusion, and difficulty adjustment mechanics.

But the drawback of player-faced mechanics is that they can’t be used to resolve contests between NPCs. Numenera opts for one of two relatively straightforward work-arounds (to be used at the GM’s discretion):

(1) In keeping with other mechanics in the system, the NPC with the highest level automatically succeeds.

(2) If that’s undesirable for some reason, “the GM should designate a player to roll for one of the NPCs. Often, the choice is obvious. For example, a character who has a trained attack animal should roll when her pet attacks enemies.”

The problem with this method is that, because of the way NPC stat blocks and pools work in Numenera, the result doesn’t factor in the NPC’s skill whatsoever: There is no modifier applied to the roll, so an NPC that’s level 2 at attacking has the exact same chance of hitting an NPC opponent as an NPC that has a level 7 attack.

What makes the problem even more vexing is that a large number of character options feature allied NPCs (like the aforementioned trained attack animal).

NPC ALLIES

NPC allies have an effort pool equal to level x 3 per day.

NPC allies also gain one recovery roll per day. This recovery roll can be used as an action at any time, restoring 1d6 + level points to their effort pool.

When rolling for an NPC, adjust the die roll by +1 or -1 per difference in level. For example, a level 5 NPC attempting a level 3 task would gain a +2 bonus to their die roll. The same NPC attempting a level 7 task would suffer a -2 penalty to their die roll.

DESIGN NOTES

These rules are short, simple, and to the point. They present a minor disruption to the purely player-faced mechanics, but without bulking out an NPC to have the same complexity as a PC. (In terms of utility, it’s particularly important that the mechanics don’t actually require a specialized NPC stat block: The effort pool can be easily derived from any existing NPC or creature.)

In actual play, the addition of the effort pool provides just enough interest to make running an NPC ally interesting while the level adjustment to the die roll for NPC vs. NPC actions provides enough distinction between characters that their interactions don’t feel flat or artificial.

These rules can be found in the “House Rules” section of my Numenera system cheat sheet.

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