Numenera: Playtest 4, Wrapping it up… into a bunch of loose ends.

So they have ownership of a dimension hopping mega-cathedral and Faroon holds a source of great wealth so let’s see what

Lots to think about from this Sunday’s session. We wrapped up the Vortex playtest, had a bunch of fun with the pregen characters, then bid adieu to (some of) them and folks rolled their own characters. And by rolled, I mean spoke them into being with Numenera’s sentence of character generating power. And then when they were still warm to the touch from the forge of their creation, we all figured out how everyone knows everyone else and that was maybe the best bit of the whole night because everyone’s ideas were stellar.

We brainstrumming!

I’ll probably talk about the new dudes and how they all know each other in another post and I also want to get down a few notes about what is NOT weird to the inhabitants of the Ninth World, because there’s a lot of weird out there, but a lot that’s weird to us is commonplace to them.

This was obviously a much shorter play session as last time we had accomplished a lot. It served to show that the way Numenera scenarios are set out with discovery in mind, rather than whatever else other games build towards. Usually thwarting things. There was no combat in this stretch of the game, and nothing to thwart really with the main antagonist being… the massive gravitational pull of the Sun.

  • Rolland – Caris, a swift Glaive who wields two weapons at once.
  • Noe – Kalain, a strong Glaive who wears a sheen of ice.
  • Ben – Faroon, a stealthy Jack who explores dark places.
  • Bryce – Sharad Talaar, an intelligent Nano who leads.

All the Spoilers for the rest of the scenario below.

We finished the last session with the Radiance Knight hitting the floor, dead. This fight had taken a lot out of an already depleted group and only Sharad had any chance of resting away any of that fatigue in less than a good night’s sleep.

The plate armour of the RK was of salvage interest to Faroon, but Sharad was most interested in the energy blade that comprised the being’s arm. The construction made some kind of sense to him, as he popped the forearm out of its socket easily and kept the power supply to the blade intact. The result was a new weapon for Faroon. In any other game, it would have been a +1 Flaming Sword, but in Numenera it’s the arm we took off that floating knight in the station just above the sun.

The building (?) continued its shuddering and rough vibrations, with occasional pops and grinding noises. The structural damage had caused two of the doorways leading from this area to be blocked, and the less blocked of the two had previously trapped Faroon as she tried to wriggle  through the gap in the debris. They tried it again, with the same result, but this time pushed Faroon through, rather than trying to pull her out. They ended up doing such a good job, they widened the door enough to allow her passage back out, but not before they had formed a bucket brigade to empty the store room of as much of its contents as they thought were salvageable. They found a good array of oddities in there – a thin rod that emitted a string of obscenities if near fire, a piece of high quality fabric that glittered and sparkled if kissed. You know. Useful stuff. They found high quality tools for which they could not imagine a use. They also found water – near boiling inside its protective container – and food, some of it baked, all of it alien.

All of this they set near the Vortex/portal ready to be taken back through to wherever it is that the insides of the Narthex led to. Sharad took a breather, recovering from all the Onslaughting his brain had been doing. The other room, they found in better shape, but empty but for a strange skeleton. Whatever alien creature this had been had – maybe been an… inhabitant? employee? …of this station but it was no species the group recognised. Although it was dead. That can’t really be taken for granted when I just describe it as an alien skeleton. Faroon confirmed this by taking its skull, which you have to imagine even the most passive and chill skeletal alien would protest.

This salvaging complete, they progressed down the long curving hallway that Caris had previously checked out. Now they all got a chance to check out the Sunscape below them and confirm that they were really genuinely in space, which I guess they always have been, but not on Earth, that’s the important bit. The shuddering and distant sounds of slowly rending metal continued as they found a rectangular space, cut back from the curved corridor. There was a big console covered in buttons and panels and dials and whatnot that made absolutely no sense to anyone so they very wisely and cautiously left it the fuck alone.

They made headway exploring the rest of the complex, but one important thing happened while they were doing so: that should be mentioned before I summarize the rest of their explorations. Walking down a part of the hallway, just after he had been examining it for, the floor gave way below Sharad. It didn’t just give way, it was ripped off and down into the Sun. Pulled by a gravity 28 times that of Earth’s, maybe assuming this is the same Sun, which maybe it isn’t. And along with it, very briefly, Sharad. This was bad news, because Sharad is the least likely of the entire party to be able to leap to safety as the floor peels away, and indeed, he failed that attempt. But it was great news because Sharad also came equipped with a cypher that let him defy gravity. He activated it as quickly as he could and ascended back into the hallway, where he was pulled to relative safety: but not before he’s caught a glimpse of the size of this super-structure above the Sun. It was big, very big and parts of it were in a really bad way. The shielding and gravity provided by the structure were presumably still good, because he wasn’t torched in an instant (although the amber covering presumably still helped) and his relation to everything else was consistent with the artificial gravity. But there were definitely parts attached to this structure that were being wrecked by the Sun.

The rooms they explored included a room full of unused power sources and some kind of containment room. Sharad managed to salvage to pods of solar energy, but they could little sense of the energy being held in the containment room. Fortunately the voice in their heads filled them in, telling them that the energy stored in this room was aware and alert. It promised then that they wouldn’t to go much further and that they could use the Wishing Well.

No-one wished for this. In game or otherwise.

At this point Caris and Faroon were keen on finding a way out, asap, although Faroon was in for this Wishing Well business. Kalain, meanwhile, knowing the pain of confinement from his days behind bars was set on finding a way to save or release these energy… beings? Fortunately that’s where the voice in their heads was going too. After finding a room with a screen that permitted communication directly with the voice, (a being who appeared to be a single cell, whose walls were strands of light) they were questioned as to their ability to save the ‘Citadel’ from its impending doom. There was no way to hide the fact that the Citadel was majorly fucked.

In that case, the voice asked if they could purge the consciousnesses from this place, sending them somewhere they had prepared as a back up location that, crucially, wasn’t about the crash into the Sun. Kalain was all about this, but Caris was concerned about whether they’d be able to get out from this pretty obvious deathtrap.

Faroon and Sharad hit the Wishing Well, the Nano blowing open the failed door with one of the energy units he had taken earlier  – inside, a ball of radiance that granted them… something. Something that they had to think very hard about. Faroon wished to be wealthy, forming the wish in her head and pushing that thought into the ball of light, through her arm, eventually withdrawing her tinging hand with a metal orb in it. Sharad, being a Clever Nano above all else, wished for the power to be restored to the Citadel. This actually helped, the lights came on in areas where they hadn’t been, the gravity stopped fluctuating and the rending of the station slowed as the shields and dampers were strengthened.

Okay, but how many Bitcoins is it worth?

Meanwhile Caris and Kalain found the control panel to exile the energy consciousnesses to a safe place, purging them from their storage units. They found the passageway choked with rubble that led back to the Portal, but weren’t going to have time to move all those girders and panels out of the wy. That didn’t mean Kalain didn’t want any of that sweet Wishing Well action. He wanted strength and his wish was granted. Caris passed on the Wishing Well, for now at least, so keen was she to get going back to the portal.

The main problem with doing that is that the curved hallway flew away into the Sun as they approached it. Whatever temporary delays they had achieved (Sharad’s wish and not actively making things worse had helped), they were running out of time as the path they had taken began to peel slowly into the Sun.

A sub-optimal environmental development.

Caris decided to use her wish after all, wishing to be able to get past the blockage between them and the Portal.  She did just that and maybe as a result, maybe coincidentally, the gravity finally failed or rather didn’t work as intended. But if you recall, Sharad had his levitation sash cypher still in effect. Tied to Sharad and the Nano now free to decide which way was up, more or less, he floated them purposefully through the hallway as the structure began to disintegrate around them. The blockage was cleared, sheared beams and structural debris floating around the passageway, but not blocking it.

Back in the portal room, their big ol’ booty pile was floating around  serenely and they had to swat whatever they could reach through the portal as Sharad made a bee-line for safety. He arrived back in the temple of the Vortex immune to the sudden reassertion of gravity, but everyone else fell face first as they made it through, mere moments before the Vortex went dark, its connection to the Citadel presumably destroyed forever.

They’d successfully discovered and then escaped an ancient structure in place above, but not much above, the Sun and they’d brought back plenty of goodies. That wrapped up our playtest, but it left a few things unresolved.

  • Did the loss of the Citadel of Radiance effect the Narthex? Or was that vortex portal just one of many attractions?
  • What else is in the Narthex? They pretty much only know the entrance, the passageways to two areas, those two areas and that’s about it. There are numerous passages as yet unexplored. Numerous!
  • Faroon wished for wealth and was given the orb. What does the orb do? Is it really a source of wealth? As Faroon would understand it?
  • This all happened five years ago – what happened next? And what happened to Sharad? Why is he still striving and exploring?

Thanks to Ben and Noe for hosting and to Rolland and Bryce for joining us – this was a really enjoyable playtest.