Friday, November 21, 2014

Numenera - Tales of the Broken Mask - Session 9

Cover art by Reece Ambrose


The Sun Below: City on the Edge, Part 3


"Hey Jim, I have to give you credit for this, I've never seen a party so afraid to do anything since I ran a group through the Tomb of Horrors!" - Frank, just before the characters have dinner aboard the An Domorr.


Usually I end my play reports with a few quotes from our gaming sessions.  It's a great way to end a post, and shares some of the lighter, more memorable moments from our game.  It's also the place where my players get to see some of their feedback during a session.  Well last night, while running our third session of Dread Unicorn Games' The Sun Below: City on the Edge by John W. S. Marvin, a licensed adventure for Monte Cook Games' Numenera, we had an amazing time, and picked up some pretty great quotes... I just had to start this post with my favorite. 

I think injecting fear and terror into a campaign is rather difficult.  To be frank, I'm having a hard time doing it with my Tuesday night Another Sun Rises campaign.  My typical campaigns are light-hearted, and I prefer to have my players leave a session smiling because of the wild and crazy things that occur during the game.  If I come up with an original idea, it's usually a little outlandish and possibly cheesy.  I like to think that my average game, even those that are more serious in theme, has the tone of a great action comedy.  


Imagine my surprise last night while running my regular Numenera campaign, when my players suddenly feared for their characters during an evening when we didn't have one single combat encounter.   I don't want to spoil it yet, but it was game-master gold - the kind of session that you get to discuss year after year!

One additional note:  any and all artwork included in this post is straight out of the adventure and can be found on Dread Unicorn's website here. 


Characters


  • Chase Rombek, a Mystical Nano who Sees Beyond, played by Frank
  • Jak, a Mutant Glaive who Constantly Evolves, played by Craig
  • Glyquorg, an Exiled Jack who Controls Animals, played by Andy
  • Ralyx, Mlox Jack who Throws with Deadly Accuracy, played by Marc


Non-Player Characters of Note

  • Ennuan, an old associate of Chase who was an Aeon Priest and now belongs to the Three Swords 
  • Mor-Klish, Slithik guardian
  • Nyxie, Captain of the Grinder 
  • Greln of the Garibaldi, Chief to he Garibaldi tribe
  • Captain Klorsh,  Captain of the An Domorr
  • Lebby, 11 year old crew


Summary


After braving the tunnels on the first level of the strange complex, surviving the encounter with Mor-Klish (now a follower of Chase Rombek) and the frigid ice trap, the party was licking its wounds.  There were two wide tunnels leading down into the depths of the Earth, and according to the slithik, these open tubes could carry users down as if they were standing on platforms.  Although each Unmasked Seeker took a few lumps during their previous endeavors, Chase Rombek was probably in the most pain, his body heaving still and mind pounding from vigorous usage of his esoteries.  But Ralyx, the party's Mlox Jack, had a simple solution for the Mystical Nano, and he pulled out a complex healing kit and prepared Chase for some holistic medicine. 

Ralyx bound Chase's wounds and applied salves to his temples before mentioning a "hot rock" therapy that he would perform.  Although Chase questioned the Mlox's need for this one last procedure, he went along with it anyway.  The Jack gathered several rocks from a corner, each relatively smooth and about the size of an orange, and placed them over a small fire.  Once heated, the rocks were positioned atop Chase's back.

That's when Chase Rombek felt teeth bite into his flesh.

Although the teeth didn't make it past his Ward esotery, the nano definitely felt the bite of a small creature.  Flipping over, Chase took a look at the strange little entity that rendered the rest of the party speechless.  A small, crablike creature with four legs and a humanoid face was glaring at Ralyx. 

"Why did you burn us!?" it demanded.

The creatures, calling themselves "Garibaldi", were led by their chef Greln.  Greln demanded reparations for his people, for the evil torments they endured at the hands of Mlox.  Glyquorg tried to be the voice of reason, and despite Ralyx continuing to taunt the Greln, they came to a deal.  The Garibaldi wanted money.  Cold, hard shins in their "pockets" (or wherever Garibaldi keep their coins and baubles) was their demand.  Despite some mockery, Greln insisted the funds could be used for useful equipment and furnishings for their homes.  Shrewd negotiations left the Garibaldi tribe with a handful of jink, and in return, Greln whispered a secret into his new friend Glyquorg's ear. 

After all that excitement it was time to use the platforms to travel lower into the complex.  Glyquorg was the first to scout the seemingly empty tube, but where his feet should have only touched air, they instead found a solid surface.  If someone were to step atop one of the open pits, they would be lowered down in relative safety.  Rather than take turns, the bounty hunters each looked at each other and jumped onto the open portion of the eastern tube together.  

(When you picture this scene in your head, you have to remember that the group was aiming for a 70's/80's movie freeze-frame.  Cuz that's how we role…play.)

For the first few moments the party descended slowly, but as they traveled further and further they picked up speed.  Soon they were free-falling, through open air past walls covered by luminous fungi, into a never ending pit below.  Nothing was blocking their path or obstructing their movement, at least not for the first minute.  But soon several large masses appeared below the characters.  Giant floating sky-jellyfish, ten feet across and fifty feet from body to tentacle hover slowly, looking for their next meal.  Glyquorg knew to dodge these beasts, as that was the secret Greln shared with the Exiled Jack, but the rest of the party just tried to glide past.  Only one member of the team, Ralyx, was snagged by a sky-jellyfish, but a swift swipe of Glyquorg's rapier kept the Mlox from becoming a meal.


Floater (sky-jellyfish according to this GM) courtesy of Dread Unicorn Games

At the bottom of the kilometers long tunnel, the velocity of the party slowed and they were all lowered into a small structure with a double door leading out.  Chase approached the door and used his power to see beyond the portal, revealing a massive airship on the other side, with an enormous sky-jellyfish for a gas-bag.  Ralyx carefully opened the door and started to approach the airship while remaining out of sight of a mustached blue man who sat on the deck reading a book.  Without even taking his eyes off of the book, and despite Ralyx being an expert at subterfuge, the blue man asked the Mlox why he was trying to be elusive.  Clearly the captain was a sharp-eyed gent.


The An Domorr, courtesy of Dread Unicorn Games


The man introduced himself as Captain Klorsh of the An Domorr, a magnificent vessel that could take the party down to the Praithian city of Urbamorr.  Captain Klorsh would accept no payment, and claimed that there were other vessels like his that would make the trip from this station down to the city on a regular rotation.  The bounty hunters were welcome to sit down and relax, although the captain seemed to have little regard for Chase's new slithik servant Mor-Klish. 

Immediately after their departure, the party was introduced to Lebby, a young girl (she claimed to be "11") that became immediately fascinated with her new passengers.  Lebby asked Chase what his favorite drink was, and proceeded to go below deck and return with a pot of hot tea with squid ink... just like the Mystical Nano drank as a child!  Lebby seemed to know intricate details about each of the characters, from their preferred foods to some of the events that they recently experienced.  Chase started to wonder if this prescient girl could possibly glean some information from what remained of Raa-em, the sentient moss that the nano still kept in a jar. 

When Lebby agreed to help restore some of Raa-em's mind and abilities, Chase followed the girl below deck.  Rather than being just another ship's compartment, this part of the An Domorr was a small forest, several hundred feet across with a river in the shape of a figure eight right in the middle.  Lebby took Raa-em and placed him near some stones.  Before Chase could react, the girl managed to grow that one small piece of moss into a form covering several stones, all of which hovered above the ground.  Lebby was now perched on a tree swing right next to the Stonebound Monk.  Chase tried to communicate with Raa-em, as he was interested in the secrets that the millenia old entity contained within its mind, but his former foe would have nothing of it.  If not for Lebby's interference, Raa-em would've tried to crush Chase's mind. 

Lebby offered Chase the opportunity to look into her River of Stars to maybe find some enlightenment.  When the nano looked down, he saw that the flowing waters by his feet were full of small little lights, miniature stars, and galaxies floating in the water.   It was impossibly beautiful.  Chase explained that he had hoped to get a better understanding of "magic" from Raa-em, to finally know if the Numenera was all just science or if there was indeed a mystical energy in the process.  Lebby coaxed Chase to drink from the waters and possibly expand his mind.

And so Chase Rombek drank deeply from the River of Stars.

Lebby called for the captain, and the two of them ended up carrying a comatose Chase back to the rest of the party.  The rest of the team was stunned, not only at the condition of their new friend, but by Lebby's announcement that dinner would be served soon in the lower chamber.  No one wanted to go.  Each bounty hunter looked at the other with fear and trepidation, but they didn't know if they could possibly refuse the offer.  Not from a godlike creature that seemed to have an absolute command of everything that happened aboard the An Domorr.  

"Can't we just eat up here?" mumbled Ralyx, before bowing to inevitability.

One by one the Unmasked Seekers descended the staircase into the forest below.  Although they were not aware of Raa-em's return, they also didn't see the floating pile of rocks anywhere in the chamber.  There was a table on one side of the figure-eight, covered in weird eats and delectables. 

The party sat and was served by floating metal orbs.  Even Chase was served, as the captain tied the nano to his chair, where he continued to drool and lightly moan.  Although their appetites were gone by this point, each member of the team carefully sipped their beverages and nibbled at bread while Lebby continued to talk and rant, often sharing tidbits from the characters' past.  The young girl even mentioned Tuctin and Tar, stating that they were safe, and had traveled on a ship much like the An Domorr just before the party arrived at the dock.  Eventually she asked if anyone wanted to get a better look at the River of Stars.  Ralyx seemed interested, and approached the bank, gazing in with his third eye.  But this didn't suit Lebby, she wanted the Mlox to be closer, so she kicked Ralyx in the rear, sending him into the glimmering waters.  The rest of the team immediately stood up... well... Chase didn't.  Jak ran to the edge and tried to use his bow to draw Ralyx in but this didn't work.  Fortunately, Glyquorg was a master at rope use, and he tied a small lasso and hurled it out to Jak.  The Mutant Glaive was pulled from the water, no worse for the wear but with a slight headache. 

Lebby was thrilled.  Oh, and Chase Rombek seemed to be awake finally!

Chase carefully looked around the room with a strange gaze.  He politely asked the Captain to untie him, which Klorsh did, and then announced that they would be in Urbamorr very soon.  Dinner wrapped up and the party of bounty hunters went back to the top deck, eager to get away from Lebby's little playhouse of psychological terrors. 

It only took a few more hours before the vessel reached the city of Urbamorr.  Above the airship was a sun... a bright orb that seemed to be painted on the "roof" of a massive subterranean tube.  This underground universe even had its own moon.  The city itself was carved into a cliffside, and the An Domorr carefully descended to a dock platform where the party could depart.  For Ralyx, Jak, and Glyquorg, the trip had been a nerve-wracking experience, and they were eager to find Tuctin and Tar, Ennuan's two grandchildren.


For Raa-em, the Stonebound Monk who had taken command of Chase Rombek's feeble human form, this was an opportunity to step out into the world once again... even if he was forced to travel with his former foes. 


Quotes


Jim (as Greln the Garibaldi):  "Why did you want to burn us!?" (in a proper British accent)
Marc:  "Holy crap!"

"Is it like a bag of angry cats or a bag of passive bunnies?" - Marc inquiring about Mor-Klish's bag of goodies.

"You need to have faith in the slithik!" - Frank had his trust in his pal Mor-Klish!

Andy to Jim the GM:  "Were the jellyfish some sort of defensive system?"
Jim the GM to Andy:  "You don't know what they were, they were weird, this is f**king Numenera."

"The price is right, and we've got nowhere else to go." - Marc on the An Domorr

Frank: "He's blue?  Is he Numenera?"
Marc:  "No he's Blue-menera!" 

"She brings you a baconator." - Craig commenting on Lebby looking a lot like "Wendy"… like… from the restaurant that makes Frosties.  

"Let's resurrect the pissed off mossy creature that we killed two adventures ago!" - Marc didn't like Frank's plan to have Lebby take a look at Raa-em.

"Well if there is a river downstairs, take me to the river." - Glyquorg quotes a billion year old song.

"And henceforth he shall forever be known as Chase Raa-embek." - Marc just kept 'em comin'.