Numenera: Play Test 2 & 3

I think the major lesson of session 2 is that it is real easy to slip back into old habits if I don’t keep an eye on it and if I drink while I play. Our first session felt like a substantially different game, but the second session felt – to me – like a new setting and new rules, but I fell into the rhythm of Pathfinder a little to easily. I was tired too, which didn’t help.

My brilliant plan for session 3 was to load up on coffee and steer clear of booze. Regrettably, I tried that out after an afternoon of booze and bratwursts and lots of sunshine. But still, I think this might be an Uppers game as I thought the third session went better.

Good news is that after a few self-reminders, the players remembered the rules and how to use their pools and Bryce slid into session 3 with apparent ease. Good thing too because they gave those pools a pretty good workout in combats this time around.

Nothing but spoilers below as the party of explorers digs in to the mystery of the cult in the moving building.

Recap:

  • 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.

The terrified teenage girl that they tackled to the ground at the end of session 1 was Evanna. She was desperately fleeing the strange disappearing/appearing structure and, more importantly, the small ‘cult’ that had kidnapped her and her brother.

As told in the sizzling bestseller!

She and Shome had drifted away from their caravan and this bunch of armed people in yellow robes had nabbed them both and tried to indoctrinate them in their cult. She could fill them in on the basics of the cult – numbers and personnel. She was also pretty certain that she’d be pursued as soon as they discovered that she’d made a run for it. She gave them some stuff about how to open the door, but Kalain wasn’t buying it at all.

Caris gave the girl a weapon, but she was in no real state to resist – being both terrified and hobbled by Caris’ meticulous peppering of the hillside with ankle-twisting/foot-piercing little pits.

Sure enough, after enough time for them to reposition themselves in their hiding places and get ready to ambush any emerging cultists, some cultists emerged and they ambushed them. The opening volley took out one of them instantly with a shot through the heart, which put an end to her giving anything any kind of name. Caris’ crossbow cord snapped, so she had to abandon that and descended the hillside, calling out the cultist barking orders at his stunned followers. The big fella took the bait, attempting to charge towards her, stumbling and then rushing up to meet her. He was heavily armoured, but Caris eventually took him down with her combination of lighter weapons.

Faroon and Kalain took on the other two cultists who were armoured with chainmail tunics, Faroon opting to activate her cypher which created a temporary lightsaber, to great effect. Early doors,  a stray blow cut an improvised grenade-cypher off the belt of one of the cultists and it fell to the ground to their dismay. The device exploded, not as harmlessly as everyone would have preferred, before one of the cultists fell and the other fled, making a risky leap back into the door from whence he had come.

Three yellow minions, dead at their feet. It’s a start guys.

The group tallied the goods taken from the cultists and shrugged off the fatigue best they could. The next order of business was to actually get in the door, which Kalain insisted he knew how to do. After half an hour of watching him get increasingly frustrated with the doorway, the two women put their heads together and used the key/wand that Evanna had given them. As soon as they did, the doorway disappeared, revealing a brightly lit interior room.

Gathering their belongings, they entered the structure; smooth metal walls, sourceless lighting and synth accented design strange to them. The little room was empty and activating the key/wand as Evanna had instructed, they pressed the bottom most button on the wand. The door reappeared, the interior complete and they felt a slight lurch of motion. After less than a minute, the door disappeared again… or the doorway reappeared? I guess I’m not sure which best describes it.

Anyway, they doorway looked out onto a narrow metal grille walkway with a delicate railing. Over the edge of the railing… nothingness. Darkness to be specific, but the way sound behaved, it seemed like darkness that went on for a very long time. Evanna was correct, this was much bigger on the inside. With nothing visible above or below, the walkway wound around the little room in which they had arrived and walkways converged upon it out of the darkness. Of all the walkways to emerge from the darkness, only one was dimly lit by candles and glittering reflectors. They left the central hub are and began to traverse this illuminated walkway. The candles and shiny detritus arranged here was stacked deeply along the side of the walkway, giving the impression of long years of tending. Repeating symbols were found in the luminations: spirals, sunbursts, and the like. Surveying the glittering objects embedded in the years of wax dribblings, they found nothing of particular value. Faroon picked out one mirror fragment and dropped it over the side of the walkway, listening for the sound of contact with a bottom to this space in which they were held by the walkway. It did not come.

Aw, thank you!

The walkway led straight across the nothingness until it met a wall and a vast door. Beyond the door, a twisting corridor, still illuminated by the candles placed along it. Every so often the corridor branched, the passageway leading into darkness. They stuck to the path. Finally they came to another doorway and beyond that, light, and the sound of squabbling.

They entered a wide circular mezzanine above an area that had been turned into living quarters by the cultists. Below, several tables were littered with the evidence of meals, others with various projects people were working on. Caris sneaked her way further into the room to listen to the argument unfolding. It seemed like small time bickering between the remaining cult members. It didn’t take much for the party to introduce themselves as a force not to be trifled with and the cult members surrendered quickly, with varying degrees of resistance.

The cultists were tied up and interrogated – the wounded Duranis had returned with news of the search party’s ambush and had gone straight to Cult Boss Abrassal. The cultists demeanour ranged from ambivalence about their leader being under threat to outrage at the desecration of their holy site by marauders. This last did not endure, as Caris seemed to think her a potential threat and slashed her throat open. This quietened the others down, big time. It began to dawn on the group that they might not be the good guys.

Moving on quickly, the party left their captives and found the elevator that they’d been told they’d need to take down to Abrassal’s quarters. A hallway linked Abrassal’s quarters, the elevator and a pair of double doors. The cult boss wasn’t in his room, but they gave it a looksee anyway.

A couple of things stood out – compared to the living quarters above, this was luxurious and packed with rich and plush furnishings; it smelled bad because it was very badly kept and unhygenic; there was no sign of metal anywhere in the room. They found a bunch of pretty clearly recreational drugs in a bowl and the whole room gave off a skeezy vibe.

The man himself was in the room through the double doors, having been alerted to the presence of these murderous ambushers by Duranis, previously wounded, now healed up. They were backed up in a long room with some striking features. Along one wall, a frame held the image (?)  of a swirling golden vortex, light and heat radiating from it in an awe-inspiring wash of beatific energy.

Close to the vortex stood an automaton, a four-legged egg-shaped thing that shifted and turned every so often. And back by Abrassal, a control panel of some sort, its surface littered with votive candles and beads. Beside that, a chained and limp Shome.

Abrassal was by turns threatening and accomodating, but obviously wasn’t counting on anyone figuring out his defense against metal – the party had ditched their metal armour and implements outside the door before entering. The big man swung his stick with considerable vigour but the party made short work of Duranis and Abrassal.

The moment his corpse hit the ground a presence pressed against the boundaries of Kalain and Faroon’s consciousnesses. Faroon resisted, keeping the presence out of his mind, but Kalain’s mind wasn’t as tough to infiltrate. He heard? Remembered? Experienced a calm, oddly stilted voice in his head. “The wall has been removed. Contact: initiated. Welcome.”

The presence continued to push at their minds, but Faroon kept it out, while Kalain let it speak to him. “The invitation is open.” It said. “If you come to where I am, any wish can be granted. But, you must dress for the party.” The presence then sent a series of images, crystal clear experiential memories rather than simple instructions and Kalain was aware of a path through the twisting dark corridors they had bypassed earlier, to a well lit room full of large numenera devices.

First things first though, they tested the nature of the vortex by throwing Abrassal’s corpse at it and found that he was burned to a few motes of ash the moment his body hit the vortex. That important study over, they returned to the captive cultists and herded them out the Narthex (for the name of the transdimensional Hershey’s Kiss was now known to them. They had to decide what to do with them and the freed siblings.

While all of these shenanigans had been going on outside and inside the Narthex, Sharad Talaar, charismatic Nano had been trying to catch up to his acquaintances. It was he who had first suggested that maybe Faroon shouldn’t collect bounty on the escaped prisoners… quite yet. And I tell you, when Sharad gives you advice, you get some damn good advice. He’s like far-future-Dr-Phil.

In what possible scenario is this advice useful?

Sharad had, however, important Nano business to attend to and was a few days behind the rest of the party. He had arrived in Jutte a few days after the big Mesomeme boil and his arrival was frosty, on account of people remembering that time he did a bunch of experiments on local dogs, putting feathers on them and convincing people to eat dog shit omelettes or something.  He stayed only a night, getting the same directions the others had received and so arriving in the general area of the Narthex while they were inside battling Abrassal.

Evanna was traumatised beyond being approachable by a new stranger, which Sharad could plainly see. When the others arrived, they decided to cut the cultists free with a few supplies and warning not to head South. Shome and Evanna were reunited, to their relief. Eventually their plan is to make it to Jutte, as Sharad remembers hearing about the area from which they were nabbed and can set them on the roughly correct path. In the meantime, they should settle back in to their former living quarters while the party goes to see about the… party.

Tracing Kalain’s remembered pathway for the first time, they travelled through the unlit portion of the twisting branching corridors, and lo and behold, found themselves at the illuminated room from Kalain’s implanted memories. There was an elevated platform dominating the roughly cruciform room, with two tall pillars on either side. As they entered, the pillars lit up in patterns and sequences that meant nothing to them, but each of the exploration party was struck by a thin beam of light. Sharad and Caris had their heads and necks were dappled with the light, while Kalain became frozen in place as he was rewritten, molecule by molecule. Oh and Faroon wasn’t hit by the light, it just built a feline-poulty hybrid beside him. The creature, once finished, licked him with a long tongue and trotted off into the darkness.

Kalain, when released from the agonizing process, was a good three inches taller than he was when he stepped into the room. Caris had learned a new, alien language, with an entire vocabulary for places and lifeforms she couldn’t identify; by coincidence (maybe) she now understood her oddity which babbled occasionally as a weather-predicting device. Sharad was parched, painfully and distractingly thirsty – but on quenching his thirst found that he wasn’t thirsty at all. Nor would he ever be.

Numenera weirdness aside, they set off to explore the room and were pretty quickly attacked by two crystal lattices snowflakes formed by two tripods near the door of the room. The snowflakes appeared to have been triggered when the players stepped on the ramp up to the raised platform. This was problematic for Kalain as one shredded him real good, before the two were brought down and the room was made a safe space again.

There were two further areas of interest in the room – a pool of amber liquid with some flexible, snakelike mechanical arms beside it and a short passageway that led to a control room. Faroon investigated the pool and as soon as she disturbed it, was dunked in by the suddenly mobile arms. After dipping him, the whipped him out and dropped him to the floor. Instead of being soaked, he was covered in a thin flexible layer of the stuff, somehow able to breathe and smell, but otherwise encased in this cool, thin coating. Some inquiry ensued: what would happen if Kalain tried it (he got dunked too), but also what would happen if they threw Duranis’ corpse in it and then threw that into the Vortex (it landed with a thud and didn’t vaporize).

Sharad figured out the control room while this TV-show level scientific inquiry was going on and stripped it for some spare parts. He garnered a whole bunch of shins, a cypher (a tub of amber-liquid concentrate that made anything it was smeared upon unbreakable) and an artifact – a bizarre weapon with incredible power and preposterously difficult ways of unleashing that power. Not messing around, Sharad coated the weapon in the concentrate and now has an unbreakable bizarre weapon.

Like this, but with more of a cat dick shape to it, we decided.

This was a good haul so far and they were keen to get to this party that ghost voice in their head invited them to, so once they were all coated in their protective sheen, they went back to the Vortex. There was a brief attempt to see if they could get any shins out of the control panel in there, but Faroon got as far as scraping off the candlewax before it seemed to make the Angel of Steel angry, so they desisted.

Leaping through the Vortex they found themselves in another place entirely, along with Duranis’ coated corpse. I have a feeling they’re almost certainly going to use that as something else before this is all through.

The room they found themselves in had a different aesthetic to the Narthex and connected structures. The voice returned, now stronger, again promising wishes but also introducing itself as Aerridomos. There were two exits, one to an adjoining room with two doors, the other to a long curving passageway, with bright circular windows along its length.

Checking out the windows, using the dark glass goggles taken from one of the cultists, Caris was presented with a staggering vista before her…

She reckoned that they were about a mile above the surface of the sun. She quickly checked her weather device. It said that she could expect it to be very, very hot, today and tomorrow. This discovery made the presence of rubble and structural debris in the adjoining room alarming. If this structure was right above the sun and not doing great… it means they could go Full Smashmouth at any moment.

You never go Full Smashmouth.

Upon entering the adjoining room, the unseen light source behind the pale green ceiling synth turned red and blinking, but not knowing what that might be, they carried on regardless. They checked out both doors and Faroon could hear nothing but the distant unhealthy grinding noise that the structure emitted. They pried one door open and she tried to wriggle through but got stuck. Only brute force and the hammering of the unbreakable alien weapon in between the doors helped free her from what was a rubble-choked supply room’s doorway. The further collapsing rubble had almost sheared Faroon’s arm.

By this point though, security had shown up. A floating suit of metal armour, its dimensions not quite human, but at least humanoid, entered the area as they were recovering from the effort of freeing their Jack from the door. It came in swinging its swordarm of incandescent light, and parrying blows away with its considerably useful shield arm. It slashed Kalain’s arm causing a rent in the coating which closed up, but not before badly cooking her arm. The explorers managed to back around it and run back a bit, giving Caris the space to hurl her improvised nano-grenade that she’d found in the fishing boat back in Jutte. It wasn’t a great throw, but sometimes close enough is good enough. The device exploded, releasing its cloud of destructive nanites, which sped through the Knight, rewriting its structure as they went. The thing looked discombobulated but survived the blast, before a few big hits took it down completely – its suit breached and whatever was inside the suit was cooked in an instant.

The warped plates of armour fell to the floor and they breathed a collective sigh of relief. Say, does anyone else think it’s getting hotter in here?

 

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