Adventure the Fourth: Saint Atsun’s Day
Boulder the Templar’s order needed him to escort the remains of Saint Atsun from the city docks to the small chapter house the order maintained elsewhere in the city, a task not only complicated by the threat of evil apostate knight, Sir Osric, but by the fact that getting a wagon across town can be a chore on the best of days.
Characters included Oscar Gordon, Wilson, Ahthera, Micah, Boulder, Geth (one of the Rogue/Mage playbooks – the Dilettante?), and Haragrin (a Young Warlord).
I always wanted to run the old Slayers of Lankhmar module (actually more its sequel Avengers in Lankhmar) and this was my riff on that. Also I really like the Road Warrior. I handed the players the city map, showed them where the docks were and where they had to go, and sat back. For each district in between I had a series of timed encounters. There was a whole bunch of possible events: a cult parade, a naval press gang looking to abduct crew, a belligerent band of barbarians searching for a lost companion (he’d been press ganged), a cursed pilgrim, and a belligerent drunk of a wizard named the Dread Mancuzo. Depending on time of day and which streets the players went down determined what they encountered.
The party avoided most of the above save for one trap by Sir Osric’s goons (Micah hopped on the horses when they bolted, removing his shirt in case any ladies might be watching), a pie eating contest (Wilson’s wendigo side manifested here when he won the contest, swallowed the contents of a garbage pail, and tried to eat one of the other pie-eating contestants), and the Dread Mancuzo who they found in a partially ruined tavern harassing a serving girl. He started to drunkenly lob fireballs about. Oscar knocked him out and Ahtera managed a well-placed kick to his nuts. Oscar then hired the harassed serving girl to help out around their headquarters.
Of course Osric was waiting for them at the chapter house where there was a big showdown. No one died although Oscar took an arrow that put him out of the fight, and Mancuzo would return in the next adventure.
Oscar and crew fought a ghost, bought a house, and set up shop as monster-therapists.
Adventure the Second: Tooth Soup
Oscar Gordon, Boulder, Ahtera, and Micah (now Micah) investigate the horrible deaths at a local bathhouse. They discover a secret passageway into the city sewers and learn the bad way that the tunnels serve as the lair for some magic-warped monstrosity. This adventure was a way to point towards the undercity as a potential area for dungeon-delving. The party encountered hints to other things such as a Midian-like community in the sewers, but never followed up on it. There was lots of running around, slipping into dank water, and jokes about poo gas. The monster was basically the creature from The Host. No one died.
Adventure the Third: The Mold Dwarf’s Due
An Elfin prince exiled to the city hired Oscar Gordon to rescue his mortal child from the evil Volod Brothers, a trio of mold dwarfs. The Volod’s have plans on selling the child once they return to the Twilight Realm, and some ancient truce prevented the prince from openly stopping the dwarfs. The party consisted of Oscar Gordon, Boulder, Micah, Ahtera, Wilson, and Nibless (Nibbler?).
First the party had to enter the fairy realm via a portal in the city park (Micah got charmed by a dryad and had sex with a tree, when he wouldn’t leave the tree Boulder punched him out), then they had to traverse a corner of the Twilight Realm (Wilson the Village Hero ate some cursed food and unbeknownst to him slowly began to transform into a wendigo over the next few adventures). Finally they caught up with the Volod Brothers and their thrall-borne carriage. The kid was rescued but the Volod Brothers survived, and Nibless, got killed in the fight. I only remember this because the guy that played Nibless was two for three with his character fatalities.
Also this was the adventure where the Beyond the Wall playbooks became tragic like an After School Special. Not that this was a bad thing.
Nibless and Wilson had the backstory of being childhood friends that had a small village adventure and now have come to the big city together. And what happens on their first adventure: Wilson gets cursed, and Nibbless killed (although I think his fate was even worse than that. He was incapacitated in the fight with the Volods, but had stabilized at 0 HP. Unfortunately he was too far away to be rescued when the rest of the party ran, so… it’s best not to think of his fate, left for dead and abandoned by his best friend in the Twilight World.)
The bibliography in the back of the Numenera core rule book is pretty decent, but like most book lists, it could always use some expansion. Gene Wolfe, Michael Moorcock, and Jack Vance are only one way to look at the future a billion years from now. Here are seven more books to inspire your Numenera campaigns.
Dancing With Bears by Michael Swanwick: Darger and Surplus are a pair of conmen traveling across a “post-utopian” future. Here they are escorting gifts from the Caliph of Baghdad to the Duke of Muscovy. One is a young man. The other is a mutant dog. Sorta steampunk. Sorta cyberpunk. Picaresque through and through.
Celebrant by Michael Cisco: DeKlend is trying to reach the city of Votu where time runs backwards and gangs of pigeon girls battle rabbit girls in the streets. Not an adventure novel, so much as a travelogue to an utterly strange land populated by organic machines and the strange societies that worship them.
The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin: Mixes the personal with the epic as Essun hunts her murderous husband across a landscape torn apart by cataclysmic forces. This is a world dotted with the ruins of countless previous civilizations, all of which have been destroyed by their own cataclysms to make a landscape alternately elegant, strange, and brutal.
Fain the Sorcerer by Steven Aylett: Fain’s your Cugel-esque rogue caught up in adventures, except Aylett’s imagination is weirder and stranger. You can open this short book to any page and encounter some wonderful insanity you’ll want to steal: “Fain walked among trees which bore fruit like resinous organic gems, until he reached a chasm of steam… the Bridgekeeper had an espaliered head, a bone lattice through which veins and tendons were woven like vines.”
A Double Shadow by Frederick Turner: the book with the lowest rating on Goodreads of all those listed here, it seems to generate the most ire against it, but I love it. A disgruntled terraformer on a future Mars writes a novel about an even further future Mars lampooning the vanities and psychosis of his current co-workers. The resultant novel depicts a society centered on a status economy and the status war that breaks out between the scions of two noble houses (the “top cocks”) when one insults the other.
Memory by Linda Nagata: Your teen on a quest to save a loved one through an alien landscape novel. Jubilee’s world is threatened by clouds of “silver” that alter the landscape and consume those unfortunate to be caught in it. When a stranger steps out from the silver searching for Jubilee’s missing brother, she sets out to find him and solve the mystery of her world.
Gilgamesh translated by Stephen Mitchell: As someone once said the remote past would be as strange to us as the far future. Or, as someone else once said, “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…” Gilgamesh is one of the oldest texts we have, and this translation by Stephen Mitchell is a great one that makes it read like it could sit side by side with Jack Kirby illustrations. The other great thing about Gilgamesh is it’s really short. The book on tape is only two hours long. Give it a listen here on youtube.
And feel free to add your own bits of far future weirdness in the comments.
The last SWN post I did was adventure 004. We got in another month or so of sessions before stopping. Here’s how it ended:
The crew’s managed to befriend a group of mutant space gypsies that wander the local systems walking a tightrope between the two rival powers: a mad cult that appears to worship one of Rana Bai’s ancestors and a cyborg army that worships an unbraked AI.
Here’s how they got there:
The crew opened the box, got the coordinates to get them across the nebula, jumped, and found themselves in an unknown star system with most of their onboard systems fried and requiring immediate emergency repairs. Meanwhile they watched and snooped on the few ships in the system. One was a military patrol boat, but it failed to notice the party. After a few days they managed to enter the orbit of the gas giant where the derelict Wild Card waited.
They made a number of forays onto the ship looting pretech treasures, fighting an “insane” crystalline repair nano and some decidedly toxic flesh monsters, and contracting a disease or two. They knew they weren’t the only ones on board, but didn’t really want to make contact with whomever else was around. Instead they stuck to exploring the massive ship’s engineering and navigation decks, where on their last run they came upon a group of mutant human fugitives.
These folks wanted off ship and managed to explain some of the political situation in the system. At least their version of it… the crew agreed to help and let the prisoners board the Far Drifter (although there might have been some fracas regarding whether or not they could stay armed) before high-tailing it out of the system ahead of another military patrol boat.
And that’s when boardgames took over game nights…
Healed up, regeared, and after getting a brief earful of archaeological palaver from the local expert, they left Logodav station and made for the asteroid. Inside they found the sky tomb in much better condition than the previous one they explored. For one thing, no pirates had drawn dicks all over everything.
The party set about exploring, Zhukov in the lead, Felipe and Jonah in the middle, Rana Bai bringing up the rear. They quickly encountered a strange garden of flowering (and edible) plants, large organic insectile pods at odds with the interior construction, and bas-reliefs sculptures depicting the tree-aliens, the Ushan, worshiping the sun.
They encountered a group of large scarab-wasp-like aliens. Felipe attempted to communicate with them by using an Ushan greeting, but only succeeded in provoking an attack. The firefight ended. The party was victorious. Explorations continued. Rana Bai cautioned the party against tampering with anything in the tomb since it might be an environmental control. They found some more wasp-beetles, and Zhukov thought he had the drop on them. But all he ended up having the drop on was his fumbled grenade. The wasp-scarabs retaliated while the party was confused and did some damage before getting wiped out.
The party rested and discovered several dead wasp-scarabs lying on platforms. They also found the scarab hatchery when they opened a door and had a rain of live baby scarab-wasps fall on them. The room inside contained four casket-like structures. The first two contained recently dead Ushan, their bodies hollowed out. The other two contained live Ushans.
Both of them were in debilitated conditions and terrified of the party. However, Rana Bai was able to forge a psychic connection with them and communicate. She learned that the wasp-scarabs used the Ushan as a food source and hosts for their offspring. Even now other Ushan were alive in the tomb and locked in conflict with the Chittick, the wasp-scarab aliens. The Ushan wished to go back to their fellows and the party escorted them there without incident. The party communicated with these new Ushan, learned where the Chittick were holed up, and said they’d help the Ushan get revenge. But first they wanted to check out this room the Ushan seemed to be in awe of.
This turned out to be a meditation chamber constructed by an ancient Ushan high priest where he went to atone for his failure to save his people. The room was guarded by a large chittick that knocked out Jonah and Felipe before getting splattered by a shotgun. Deeper in the chambers amid strange holographic projections the party discovered the Sun Tower, a powerful Ushan artifact.
After a bit more exploring (and resting to at least get Felipe back up on his feet – no one could repair Jonah and the Ushan carried him for the rest of the adventure) they reached the main chittick nest for the boss battle. Felipe was knocked out, Zhukov managed to remember the correct way to throw a grenade, and even one of the Ushan managed to get some payback for a millennia of enslavement. At which time we were all tired and decided it was time to go home.
So the party returned to the space station, not much richer, but having to settle for single-handedly rediscovering a lost race of aliens and freeing them from enslavement. Before finishing, one of the Ushan (the psychic one) approached Rana Bai with a message.
“Your sister waits for you,” he said. “Beware the Still Lady.”
None of which made any sense to anyone.
Here’s the write-up from last Monday night’s SWN game.
First off was a reminder that when players own a spacecraft someone needs to play the clerk and keep the spreadsheet. It had been two weeks since our last game, so it was a bit hard figuring who owed who money from the scribbled notes on the back of the captain’s character sheet.
Done with that, the game began with the party receiving a message from the secretive Overwatch organization. Overwatch is a bit like Anonymous with spaceships. They’re paranoid security specialists and encryption nuts. They built the box the treasure map’s in, and one option was to have them open it instead of tracking down Ace’s friend Lootman, the owner who’s on some hell-world and may or may not be alive.
The party had been trying to contact Overwatch for a few sessions, but had no luck until now. Overwatch contacted them and set up a meeting.
On an abandoned spaceship.
In an irradiated system.
The party flew out, and Overwatch wanted Captain Bai to cross to the derelict ship. She said she wouldn’t go without Zhukov. Overwatch agreed. The two crossed over and boarded the ship. Felipe ran a scan and saw that the ship was rigged to explode. He told this to Captain Bai, and she and Zhukov fled back to the Far Drifter with only minor incident. Overwatch contacted them again and asked what the problem was. Bai said, like hell was she going to board a ship rigged to explode. Overwatch replied it was just a security measure. Bai consulted with the crew and ultimately decided to cross over alone. She boarded the ship, went to the cockpit, and began negotiations with Overwatch.
Turned out that Overwatch was interested in finding the Wild Card and wanted to partner with the party. They agreed to open the box for a fee and to enter a partnership with the party. There was some negotiation as to what this partnership might entail, and in the end it was decided that an Overwatch representative would accompany the party and make an appraisal of any relics found. This rep would meet the party the following standard day on Logodav Station.
The party returned to Logodav and met with their former passenger, Kameron Litvak. She’d been talking with station security and had a hunch her sister was being held captive at a pirate base in the system. The crew agreed to help her and said they’d go to the pirate base after the Overwatch rep arrived. The next day a small packet boat arrived at Logodav carrying Jonah Gnosis, an AI.
Happy to be working together, the crew boarded the Far Drifter and went to talk to the pirates, posing as smugglers. The pirates agreed to negotiation. The crew landed at their base and were told they could board, but couldn’t wear armor or weapons. Everyone hid a small weapon on their person, but the armor they left behind. They entered the base and quickly met up with a group of pirates who wanted to know what they had to trade. Captain Bai let them sample the space heroin. (The pirates brought out a captive “entertainer” and used her as a test subject.) Pleased with the results the pirates agreed to the deal. But when asked what they wanted in payment, the crew asked for the prisoner – but the pirates refused, which prompted mayhem from Zhukov.
Weapons were drawn. People were shot. Some of them even pirates.
Captain Bai and Felipe were wounded pretty early and went back to the ship once the pirates were done. Zhukhov and everyone else pressed forward, kicking down doors.
More people were shot.
By now Felipe and the Captain had armored up and returned to the hideout. Zhukov was just subduing the pirate chief when they got to him. They then dragged the captain to the prisoners. Where the captain managed to escape and lock himself in with the prisoners. He then began negotiating through the locked door, but when things went south he opted for trying to kill Kameron’s sister. The party managed to bust in and kill him and get a Lazarus patch on the sister. They then killed the last pirates (who had surrendered) and looted the place before boarding the Far Drifter, voiding the hideout’s atmosphere, and flying back to Logodav with the rescued captives.
So now, they have the box open and the jump map to the Wild Card. They have some loot (but never enough). They could set out next adventure for the Card or they could do some tomb raiding in system or take on another cargo and make some money doing some more of that space trucking. The choice is theirs.
All I ask is that they give me some clue beforehand.
AKA “This time let’s make sure we check the hold for killbots!”
900 words of actual play report incoming! If reading that sounds awful, run away now!
As promised/threatened here’s a play report from our most recent Stars Without Number game. The main party consists of Captain Rana Bai, psychic explorer searching for her family’s lost fortune, ex-commando Estevan Zhukov, sleazy pilot Felipe Mazin, and Ace Stanton, a conman who’s promised to bring the party to a lost ship full of treasure.
The adventure before this one saw the crew taking on a payroll delivery job, getting into a dog-fight with a pirate ship, getting high-jacked by pirates, and defeating said pirates at the expense of two of their crew’s lives. After that the party cruised into Highline Station and was promptly paid money, which they promptly turned around and paid back to the company that hired them in the form of having the heavily damaged Far Drifter repaired.
Phillip Maeda took this moment to announce his retirement. Yup, space was proving too dangerous for him and he figured he’d rather find a steady job piloting orbital tugs. So down a pilot, the party sat around the station’s shitty spacer bar where Ace bumped into an old buddy, Felipe, who happened to be a pilot. He quickly joined the crew, especially once he heard talk about the lost treasure ship, the Wild Card.
A day later with the Far Drifter repaired, they flew back to New Omsk where they picked up cargo, and Estevan found a message from his former employers at Silverlight Enterprises waiting for him. It told him to be at a dingy bar at a certain time. He set out with Felipe while Captain Bai stayed behind to go over possible routes and cargoes.
Of course, it was an ambush. Of course, people got knifed in the face. Surprisingly none of them were Felipe or Estevan.
After they were done taking care of the Silverlight goon squad, a stranger approached them wanting passage off planet. She was willing to pay and said she had some skill as an astronautic tech. Estevan said it was up to the Captain, and they brought the woman, Kameron Litvak, back with them.
By now Captain Bai had got a line on enough cargo to fill the hold. Computer parts and data cells for Davenbando Station, nutribars and 20 tons of boxed up pigs destined for Logadav Station. She’d also turned down a xenoarcheologist passenger (which surprised me but was likely for the best as he probably would have gotten the party killed in a treasure-hunting mission) in favor of an old doctor and Kameron.
Loaded up and ready to go they left New Omsk and had no problem making their first jump. Unfortunately the pigs didn’t react well to intergalactic travel and several of them quickly became ill. There was some quick debate over what might be causing it, and since they had a doctor (or two if they counted Captain Bai) onboard they decided to operate and see what was wrong with the pigs.
Doctor Soledad cut open a pig and discovered that it had space heroin hidden inside. Most of the other pigs had similar cargoes. The crew did what they could to keep the pigs alive, but they also kept a pack of space heroin.
The only other incident came when they exited jump and intercepted a distress signal from a hijacked shuttle. The decision to ignore the call proved non-difficult. They jumped again and found themselves in the Davenbando system. They encountered a police cruiser, made no resistance despite the drugs onboard, and were sent on their merry way to the station, where they refueled, sold off their cargo, and said goodbye to the Doctor. They then took in a museum/amusement park set up to emulate the quarantined world below that once housed a now extinct race of intelligent one-eyed miniature tyrannosaurus rexes. Captain Bai proclaimed the park the highlight of the trip.
Unfortunately, after doing a bit more book-keeping it was pretty clear that the party had made very little money on the run once they discounted for expenses. Fortunately there was a cargo waiting to go to Logadav Station, and the crew quickly loaded it up. Not wanting to take any chances Captain Bai had Felipe attempt to shear their travel time by doing some course trimming. While not without some risks, Felipe proved more than capable to the task and succeeded. The party reached Logadav without incident. Except for the fact that nearly half the pigs were dead and all of them (except one) had space heroin inside. They decided to rendezvous with the buyer as quickly as possible, which they managed to pull off without incident.
Now they’re on Logadav Station, a mining colony less than a century old, and suddenly famous on account of the fact that the ruined tombs secreted within asteroids throughout the system. Captain Bai has her hopes on doing some treasure-hunting, while Kameron Litvak, the passenger they brought out here, asked for the crew’s help in finding her sister who disappeared several months ago while visiting the system.
Also Logadav is only two (uncharted) jumps away from Valcuba the world where Ace says his ex-partner Lootman is, and he’s needed to open the box that has the map to the lost treasure ship inside.
Unfortunately, those are two uncharted jump routes, and Valcuba is a notorious death world.
The party’s other option for opening the box is tracking down the box’s manufacturer, a mysterious group of paranoid security operatives known simply as the Overwatch Pact. So far they’ve had no luck finding leads.
* And yes, I’m doing the whole art for XP thing again. The vomit from the pig on that one is quite good.
** And yes, I went full space trucker with box pigs and everything.