Numenera: Mission Improbable

In a new adventure I’m running on Friday evenings, our group of adventurers and outcasts are performing a mission for some shadowy benefactor who has yet to make themselves known. Upon being picked up in a flying pod, which on the inside seemed to be some kind of windowless meeting room, the group were clued in on the mission particulars.

They were going to acquire an artifact, an artifact of great power known to be hidden underneath Cavern Rock. Agents of their employer had discovered that something existed below, and that in that something, the group would discover their prize. In exchange, each was being paid, either in shins, fame or other things less mundane and much harder to obtain. Whatever their reasons, the team was brought together for their unique blend of skills and abilities, something they’d all be needing to make use of before long.

Upon arriving at Cavern Rock, the group explored the town, heading up the main road that lead towards the central courtyard before the entrance to the Arena. Javini, an explorer and discoverer of artifacts that has a small measure of fame in the Steadfast, invested her shins in some throwing knives from Norlup’s Blade, and the master Mathematician/Bodyguard Knudsen scanned the results boards of the bookies, looking for patterns and identifying some promising bets. Ackaimo, the ex-cop turned bounty hunter, got in on the betting too and after some minor kerfuffles, they made their way into the Arena to watch a match and scope out the area, as while they’d been informed by a holographic messenger in their flying carriage of some of the details, seeing it themselves was quite different.

The favourite to win was a fighter called Jesper who had been fighting all day and was on 12 consecutive wins. His opponent, an nameless diruk. The fight started off with Jesper taking a strong lead, using a cypher to give him wings so he could use better maneuverability in the anti-gravity environment to fight the diruk. However, the diruk managed to rip off his wings and the tables turned. The angry electronic eye at the bottom of the spherical Arena began to pulse and in a mad rush to survive, the pair tried to get back on to the ledges, but they were too late and an angry red pulse of energy shot from the eye, disintegrating the diruk entirely and Jespers legs. With some help from some healers, Jesper survived to win.

Ackaimo and Knudsen both lost their bets against Jesper, while Javini won back what she put in, plus a single shin. Milling around in the bookies, Knudsen tried to lift some shins from an unsuspecting coin purse but failed, accidentally triggering an illegal detonation cypher his mark was carrying, rendering everyone deaf as the sonic burst blasted throughout the building. He quickly made his escape, using his black out ability to darken the room and cover his trail. However, Javini, suddenly deafened, used her illuminating touch ability to try and shine a light on her situation. However, due to the blackout it wasn’t working, so she touched everyone and everything possible, trying to figure out what was going on with her powers whilst also blinding groping for a way out. When she did get out, the blackout wore off and suddenly all the illuminated objects she’d created that were suppressed, suddenly all shone out, turning the inside of the building into a blinding white beacon of light.

There was some minor panic, guards trying to figure out what had happened and some people with glowing robes escorted away, but in the confusion the group managed to regroup and get another set of betting slips granting them access to the arena, as well as a sausage on a stick. Their plan was to use Knudsen’s tracer ability to trace the sausage, and chuck it down the Arena pit (or ‘accidentally’ drop it). Then they’d have a way of finding their way to it, which meant if they explored the might be able to find the other end of the tunnel that seemed to exit in the bottom of the Arena near the eye.

This fight went very quickly and the customers were none too pleased. The fighter, a woman called Lenna Streck, was met with much booing and yelling, while her opponent, a hulk of a man called Stritter was cheered on. Knudsen had earlier seen that Lenna was a survivor. The odds for her seemed strange – she lost as often as win, but one thing that was obvious was that she always survived. Some mental arithmetic later and Knudsen was sure she was making a steady profit and she would be a safe bet. The fight was anti-climactic to say the least. Lenna froze Stritter in mid-air above the eye using some kind of sticky-goo-ball cypher, then taunted the eye with another cypher, triggering it to vaporise Stritter, all without even leaving her starting position. The crowd was furious and felt cheated, but no rules were broken so there was nothing to be done.

Eventually she left the Arena and headed to the inn off the courtyard – the Flying fist – to celebrate. Before she left though, the players noticed she was talking with a strange automaton. The automaton was congratulating her, saying that Baz’s blessings were upon her. The players were undecided what they wanted to do from this point and the session came to a close.

Numenera/Strange: Just in the Nick of Space/Time

The session before last, the group descended into the labyrinthine warren of passages that snaked their way beneath the surface of the world known only as Hell by it’s occupants. They navigated through a series rooms connected together by tubes. Some were dangerous, filled with otherworldly energies that warped the very fabric of their beings, whilst others were dangers of a more mundane type; a rusted pipe bursting and filling the room with flames, among others.

Their mistreatment of their guide saw him scuttle off into the darkness, leaving them to navigate unaided, but eventually they found their way to a huge hall lined with discs, portals to other worlds. There must have been millions within view. In the centre of the dome-arched room stood a great black pillar and the agents, mutated and tired but otherwise fine, explored. They started trying to learn more and find a way out, as Selena could see the invisible energies in the room – it was heavily radioactive.

Upon the pillar was a strange computer of sorts and Mafini interfaced with it, becoming one with the computer and all it knew. He opened a doorway back home to Earth, but being one with the machine he couldn’t leave.

This session started with the others agreeing to send Selena through the portal to report in and get help.

Stepping through the portal, Selena was confronted by alarms and armed guards and was demanded to identify herself, since she looked different to her normal Earth self due to travelling via apposite gate. She briefly panicked and the situation was compounded by the fact she had no memories of Estate training, since she was her clone.

Bhaltair has been trying to get Mafini to respond and accidentally injured him in the process. Taking his leave, he soon followed Selena to Earth and manage to defuse the situation forming there, despite being a strange blue man with a chainsaw arm. After a very quick debrief the situation was explained and several armed and radiation-suited staff followed the others to assist in an extraction.

However, Mafini/Machine (Machini?), responding to the injury and an incursion of outsiders from a gate, went into high alert and activated it’s remaining cache of security droids. A fight ensued and the support team were killed, but not before they managed to take out half the robot force. Whilst Asher and Selena fought the remaining droids, Bhaltair pulled Mafini from the interface, causing him immense pain and then tried to access it himself, but couldn’t due to his crystal coating. He tried using his chainsaw to slice away a layer of crystal to expose bare flesh, but messed it up, almost severing his hand in the process. With his stump pressed into the interface, he merged with the machine.

The Machine/Bhaltair (Bhachine?) issued a restart and reboot order. The radiation in the room receded and the remaining droids shutdown. Selena, with her sight beyond sight, could see the radiation retreating but then saw some bad news: it was forming some kind of highly concentrated energy ball deep below the control room they were in, one that if unleashed would be strong enough to kill them all instantly.

After a failed attempt to connect again, Mafini joined Bhaltair using the spare interface at Bhaltair’s console (as the others had shut off and Bhaltair with his stump was only using one half of it). The Machine/Mafini/Bhaltair (Mafichiltair?) managed to reprogram part of Mafini’s mind with the instructions on how to manually override and repair the failing singularity core that powered the Machine. On that note, Mafini and Bhaltair ejected and Mafini immediately ran to sort things out, Asher joining him as Selena and Bhaltair rested and tried to deal with his near-severed hand.

Mafini and Asher made their way through faulty, dangerous lift-shafts and rooms full of strange devices, falling afoul of some accidental traps and cypher-eating moths until they came across a stairwell filled with slime. Mafini made use of a temporal viewer he’d found and looked into the future. He saw himself looking into the temporal viewer, then they decided to take action – the slime attacked with strange pseudopods and they were nearly at the edge of death when the viewer cut out. Clearly they needed to do a different course of action.

Trying to communicate with the slime was painful and it was clearly insane with pain and rage. Trying to convey some meaning to it, they explained they needed to access the singularity core to fix it, so they could return it to it’s native world. There seemed no response until the floor of the stairwell dissolved, eaten away by the slime to reveal a 50ft drop into the singularity room.

In a daring feat of acrobatics, both Asher and Mafini made their way down through the hole into the room. In the mean time, Bhaltair had healed (more or less) his hand using a chiurgeon sphere artifact. Selena decided to follow the others down and Bhaltair came after. Selena was as graceful as a cat and made her way flawlessly to the singularity room but Bhaltair, being injured and heavily obese was not so lucky. He fell at the first hurdle and in an effort to stop himself plummeting to his death down the lift shaft, used his chainsaw against the wall to try and slow his descent. Sadly, this awoke a swarm of chance moths that, sensing the innate cypher power of his crystal skin, attacked and drained it until his skin replacement fell off, crumbling to dust and leaving a skinless man in immense pain cowering at the bottom of a lift-shaft. He activated his sphere again and it began printing him new skin, but the moths attacked it, and it malfunctioned as it was losing power. It finished the job, but his skin was a crazy pattern of glitched shapes, colours and textures. Picking himself up, he made his way to the singularity room.

All together, the group decided that ejecting the core (which would cause the entire pocket universe they were in to collapse into the Ninth World) wasn’t an option, even with their extremely short time left before the energy burst fried them all as the core came back online. Instead, using Selena’s energy sight, she worked out how to repair or at least manipulate the shielding around the singularity to divert the energy blast away from them. The others tried their best, but the slime was still fighting them and the spikes that lined the walls to shape the energy fields were heavy and dangerous. They didn’t make it in time. With barely 10 seconds left, they took drastic action and Selena tried to damage the containment rings of the singularity but failed. Ay the very last second, Bhaltair leapt up and in the final moments plunged his chainsaw into the containment rings, causing the singularity to destabilise and collapse.

The whole of existence disappeared and for an eternity the group were trapped in a formless void, then like the sound of rushing water in reverse, the universe rushed back to meet them and they found themselves in the Ninth World, they guessed, based on the humans around and the green-tinted moon in the sky. The people weren’t talking in Truth however, so wherever they were, it wasn’t the Steadfast any more.

Return to the Ninth World

After a very long hiatus due to Christmas, conflicting schedules and other issues, my The Strange/Numenera hybrid game had another session last night.

The team, having debriefed from their last mission, were approved to return back to the Ninth World recursion as the research team were very eager to discover more about this dense apposite gate cluster they had found. Translating back in, the players arrived where they left – the prison portal room, but in the intervening time the earthquake the had translated away from seemed to have left it’s mark, caving in much of the room and blocking the convention exit. With some luck, they could crawl out through a hole in the ceiling but Bhaltair, ever the strange one, entered the portal immediately and the others soon followed.

The group found themselves on a small platform coated with grime and gore, suspended in a huge, grey void. Crimson lights twinkled in and out of existence in the far distance except in one direction where there seemed to be a dark black sphere hanging in the grey expanse. From their platform, a beam of metal stretched out towards the sphere in the distance and they could also observe other platforms suspended in the air. There seemed to be no floor, so they feared falling into the abyss.

Stretching and straining to see if they could spot anything of interest, Selena slipped on the gore-encrusted platform and fell into space, pulling Asher with her as her tried to save her. Instead of plummeting to their doom, they found that once they had fell a few feet away gravity no longer applied and they were left floating in space. Mafini used his jetpack cypher to help them whilst Bhaltair, fascinated with the area examined the gore, and finding nothing of interest, explored down the beam towards the sphere. With the others in tow, Mafini decided to show off his new jetpack, flying after Bhaltair and spiraling around the beam. However, his lack of skill as piloting jetpacks, let alone in a zero-gravity environment, sent him hurtling off and he crashed into another platform, knocking two figures off and sending them flying into space. The recovered them, only to find one of them was long dead. The man looked malnourished and was more than a little crazy, claiming they were trapped in hell and that he was trying to find a way out for himself and his wife, who was sleeping.

They got very little information out of him but Selena, using her power of sight confirmed some of his babblings – the lights they saw far off were apposite gates, but they seemed dangerously unstable, opening and closing at random for a split second and generating dangerous energy.

Whilst they continued to question the old man, Mafini travelled past Bhaltair to explore the beam and incurred the wrath of a swarm of giant moths with sharp, scissor-like mandibles. With quick thinking he used is powers of illusion and Spinner trickery to convince the moths he was one of them, but by this time Bhaltair had caught up and they attacked him instead. A fight ensued and the moths were quickly dispatched.

Bhaltair used his biomorph cypher to induce a permanent mutation, but rather than use a mutation, we used something else from a new Numenera supplement I’m working on. This caused one of his arms to be replaced with an organic chainsaw. He later was given another biomorph injector by Mafini which made him turn translucent in direct sunlight.

Eventually everyone grouped together and they continued down the beam. Nearing the sphere, it was clear they were walking towards the surface of a planet and from their vantage point perpendicular to the surface they could see various settlements and strange pits in the surface of the black and barren world. As they came close to the surface, the gravity abruptly switched and they fell to the ground, luckily avoiding too much damage, Mafini landing safely using his jetpack.

The group decide to investigate a nearby settlement, and find it inhabited by terribly deformed mutants. Bhaltair and Mafini, using his illusions, approach and the situation rapidly devolves into a battle involving the two guards and their summoned leader, an immense, foul blob of a man with a huge axe. A chainsaw suppository and a rocket powered spear later, the group make short work of them. The camp they were trying to enter is little more than a collection of filth and ruin, full of a rabble of deformed mutants, clearly cannibals, based on the remains strewn about. A girl is trapped in a cage, but she runs when released. One of the mutants, one that seems much less deformed than the others, begs to come with the newcomers, telling them he can be useful, that he looks so normal because he is a runner, one of the few that can explore the mazes below the surface and come back to tell the tale with strange foods and animals that seem to appear there.

After some discussion, the group decide that exploring the maze is their best bet of finding their way out of this place.

The Strange: The Estate

After leaving the Ninth World in our last session, our group of adventurers emerge into a translation room at The Estate to be confronted by armed guards, alarms klaxons ringing and lights flashing.

“Unauthorised translation in the gate room!”

Eventually, after a debrief, Asher and Mafini are given leave to do as they will, whilst Bhaltair is questioned a bit further, given he is not actually the original (and in his new form looks disturbingly generic, having been unable to settle on one look, ended up an amalgamation of all possible ones, with his blue crystal cypher effect manifesting on Earth similarly to Epidermodysplasia verruciformis). After a month of recuperation, the trio are sent off on an assignment, what their supervising officer hopes will be a simple one for the PR department – investigate some weirdness at a Minnesota high-school science fair and make contact under the auspices of the Morrison Fellowship Prize. Serena is still MIA, her clone somehow trapped between worlds and lost in The Strange, though it is hoped her original is still safe in the Ninth World Research Recursion.

Sent off to Minnesota, the trio investigate. Mafini visits the house whilst Bhaltair and Asher go to the school. Mafini, after some bungling, discovers the person of interests mother tied up in the basement but isn’t equipped to help, so leaves her and rendezvous with the others back at the school, who in the meantime have learned that Gwen certainly has developed something far beyond what, well, anyone on Earth should normally be able to develop, certainly not a child in high-school. Her mother is super-protective, overly so, and seems to be dead inside, like a machine more than a mother.

The team notice some OSR agents are also there, interested in the girl, so Mafini, using his fame as a magician to good effect, distracts one and manages to sleight-of-hand his gun away. Eventually the team leave, ready for the official appointment with Gwen and her mother, though they are not sure what to expect given what Mafini discovered in the basement.

An interview at Gwens house soon goes south and her mother attacks, but the team quickly dispatch her. It’s soon apparent, if it wasn’t already, that Gwen is quickened and has somehow tapped into her abilities to give her tremendous scientific skill. She built her ‘replacement’ mother as a helper, but it went wrong, becoming over-protective and eliminating anything that came between her and her daughter – even the real mother. Using the abilities of her daughter to create a powerful energy conversion system, she was using the original mother as a power source and had captured two OSR agents (because they couldn’t defend themselves due to one having his gun stolen…) to serve as backups.

The team tried to erase the agents memories, but failed, electrocuting them instead. They eventually headed off, dropping off the mother at a hospital and taking the girl into custody to receive counselling and treatment for her trauma. They also returned to The Estate with several new cyphers.

Numenera/Strange: Maws the Merrier

Continuing on from our last session, and absent the player of Bhaltair Rook, the characters carried on fleeing the village where they had caused so much trouble on the backs of their stolen Ithsyn. As they fled, they spotted a large, grey structure in the distance, a dull metal monolith. Getting closer, they passed a series of natural-looking stone pillars when suddenly the ground began to tremble. Earthquake!

Luckily, the tremors subsided quickly, but it was enough to send on of the Ithsyn into a panic and it ran, emitting its natural gaseous defence mechanism which addled the brains of Mafini who was riding it. Meanwhile, the others retained control of their beasts and examined the pillars, which after the tremors were revealed to have metal poles underneath carved in strange, red symbols that glowed and pulsed ever so faintly. Selena looked around, using her sight beyond sight to look for clues and saw that this monolith seemed to be at the centre of a vortex of ultra-dimensional energies – and Mafini on his panicked beast was heading right for it! Translating the glyphs, it seemed to be about some kind of warning to beware some kind of energy and they decided to stay back rather than chase after their comrade.

Whilst this was happening, Mafini saw that the monolith had an entrance and that two guards, dressed in garb similar to the guards from the village, were handling a small group of prisoners. He was spotted hurtling towards them and waved at to come over, but not in control, Mafini deliberately fell from the beast, and spun a tale, identifying himself as from the village and using the Ithsyn gas as a cover to explain why he didn’t know much about this place or why he was here. Convinced, it was explained that these prisoners were to be given to the Maw for judgement for their crimes. Mafini explained he was guiding some travellers to Charmonde and was just passing through and went back to his group to explain the state of affairs.

They felt that this ‘kangaroo court’ of hurling people to their deaths in this ‘Maw’ was no kind of justice and so they decided to help free the captives. They plan was to charge them on their Ithsyn and for Mafini to use illusions into helping confuse and and disarm them. However, Selenas Ithsyn panicked and she found herself hurtling towards the Maw on the back of the green-gas-farting bird creature, confused by the gases effects. The others leaped into action, chasing after her and Bhaltair, extremely interested in this ‘Maw’ zoomed again, running over a guard and diving towards it to better examine the thing. Eventually, the battle came to a close, after a lot of gas-induced confusion, shattered chains and illusory cobras. Interrogating the one remaining prisoner, the other having fled, they learned, despite him attempting to lie, that he was sentenced to judgement by the maw for raping a woman. So he didn’t leave unpunished, Asher cut his face, marking him forever with two scars down his cheeks and sent him on his way, providing mercy from the fate of the Maw.

Meanwhile, Bhaltair was frantically examining the strange vibrating sphere of void that was the Maw. Excited, he babbled about it being some kind of gateway, but the characters worked out it was neither and translation or apposite gate, but just a space-time warp, though quite how that worked in the context of a recursion was unknown. Bhaltair also got the sense that there were a great many apposite gates within the place beyond the portal, based on his examinations and on Selenas account after she peered into the void with her sight beyond sight and saw strange lights, metals disks and beams stretching off into darkness.

After some debate, they eventually decided to try and translate back to Earth, even though this Selena and Bhaltair were not natives to the Earth recursion and there may be some trouble. As they began translating, the earthquake started up again, but they were already in their new selves on Earth before they had time to react to anything that may have been happening in the monolith.

We ended the session there, since Selenas player was ill, I was quite tired and we were missing Bhaltairs player and next session, we’ll decide on what new Foci each of them have and what form Selena and Bhaltair choose to take.

Numenera/Strange: Remembering the Way Home

We had the next session of my hybrid Numenera/Strange game yesterday, and the big reveal was made.

Another round of A Penny For My Thoughts was completed resulting in:

  • Asher being involved in another failed op due to experimenting with buttered toast and cats
  • Selena fleeing the ex-husband from an earlier memory in a Wacky Races style rocket car, resulting in an innocent bovine getting killed
  • Bhaltair going to a Bananarama hard rock comeback concert in Europe, getting drunk and mistakenly ending up in Amsterdam
  • The Great Mafini involved in a bet to eat cheesecake with chopsticks versus his stagehand swallowing a live goldfish, which goes horribly wrong resulting in the “disposal” of three people

So, we’ve learned a bit more about the world and the characters. Mostly that Mafini is even more of a psychopath than last session revealed, Bhaltair is an even odder, stranger person than before, Asher has a history of failed stake out ops and Selenas history is positively surreal, almost cartoonish.

At this point, the players refused to complete their therapy, pulling out the cables that fed them with memory fluid. The facility computer became more and more aggressively insistent, until finally it deposited a robot into the room not dissimilar to the repair droids from Fallout 3. After more refusals, it vaporised Mafini to the shock of all and the others leapt into battle, using their mysterious abilities and skills to assault the droid until it was destroyed. Selena used shatter on the locking mechanism of the door to their therapy room and they discovered a corridor lined was doors leading to rooms like theirs, some occupied by non-human skeletons. At either end of the corridor was an arch, one pitch black, another illuminated with light dappled as if reflecting off of water. Exploring the lights arch, they found a room lined with huge glass tubes, most broken or empty but 4 occupied by a thick greenish soup. One was emptying and revealed a perfectly fine Mafini, spluttering a bit, and naked, but otherwise intact. Bhaltair, using his technical know-how, manipulated the control panel on the track to release Mafini who had all his memories intact but knew nothing of the last sessions events or being vaporised. In fact he knew why they were there and who they all where.

The four strangers where in fact all members of an Estate recon team sent to explore and report back on the maturation progress of the Numenera recursion. The recursion was a home grown one made as part of an experiment by the Estate to explore the effects of mass engagement of Earth natives with the source fiction for a recursion on its maturation rates. The rpg Numenera and the recursion was created by two agents in the research division, an Agent Germain and Agent Cook. However, soon after the team translated in, whilst exploring, a rent in the ground opened beneath them and thats where Mafinis memories ended.

On further investigation of the tubes, they discovered copies of themselves inside, one each. Asher, based on Mafinis new memories, and the events prior, vaporised himself using a cypher salvaged from the robot and soon enough the tube with his naked self emptied and he woke up, memories back.

Bhaltair decided to try and open his counterparts tube using the same method he used to free Mafini (and Asher after the tube emptied) but the device refused with a loud alarm. The players figured that the facility would only allow one of them to exist at once and without equipment, they had precious little with which to smash open the tube. Bhaltair instead decided to prise off the panel in the hopes of being able to override the safeties stopping its release but failed, causing the tube to destroy its contents, killing his original.

Selena, having seen Bhaltairs original destroyed decided to leave her self in the tube, they could come back later when they had other equipment. Mafini, with all his memories, remembered that the Numenera recursion was rich in cyphers which could usually be found by smashing things, which he proceeded to do, spreading broken glass everywhere and consequently cutting his feet. However, he did find several cyphers, a canister that destroyed dead, organic matter, 3 biomorph injectors and a crystal virus. Mafini couldn’t identify the latter however, but the odd Bhaltair quickly worked out what it did and slapped it on his forehead, his skin soon getting replaced with this hard, flexible blue crystal. They also found a Chiurgeon sphere in the remains of the robot, an artifact that can repair organic matter.

Eventually, after exploring the dark arch, they found the hole through which they must have fallen into the facility. It was an easy climb up and Mafini and Asher figured, based on the terrain, that they were likely near the Black Riage mountain range, up near the Eastern borders of Naverene. They could see a settlement in the distance, so decided to head there for supplies.

However, as they made their way, Selenas See the Unseen ability kicked in and she spotted an invisible man, or weirdly, several echoes of the same person all overlapped, approaching. It was a dimensional husk and it attacked. Mafini used his illusory powers to clothe himself and intimidate the creature with a massive gun, which partially worked. A round of combat ensued but the players tried to negotiate with the angry, tortured creature, Mafinis persuasive powers as a Spinner and Selenas empathic abilities working together to try and calm it. Unfortunately, Mafini managed to engage it and it attacked, but it missed every time and became so despondent that it followed the advice of the players to try and clone itself in the facility that it threw itself into the crevasse.

The players then continued on to the village, Mafini faking a vast cache of riches in order for them to buy equipment. However, when buying clothing, his skills failed him and he was caught out as a thief or con-artist. A scene began to form but after agreeing to pay and leave the village, Mafini dumped the bag of illusory shins and in the midst of a “gold rush” they made their escape, stealing a set of tamed Ithsyn and riding off (if feeling a little ill from one of the Ithsyn releasing its defence gas).

Selena and Bhaltair couldn’t translate to Earth, since they had no proper memories of it, but Asher and Mafini, having their original memories, could. They planned to potentially translate back, bringing Bhaltair and Selena with them, when they found a safe place to rest and begin the translation trance.