How bizarre is too bizarre? No such thing!
With so many new and alien cultures, technologies, and landscapes, it’s easy to get a little lost when taking your first steps in the Ninth World.
And the only way to do this is with your own imagination.
Building weirdness like a good lasagna
1) Initial Concept
Maybe this happened, maybe its just a tall tale that the villagers have. Since this is Numenera, the idea of a giant, living hill is both interesting and terrifying… because it could happen!
3) Next make sure the non-player characters have an alien feeling, even the most common NPCs
An evil overlord is very cliche in traditional fantasy adventures. Let’s make this a twisted entity that lives in the Datasphere. It has no known motives, but insists on the entire population staying in the make-shift village below ground performing their daily tasks. It provides food and water somehow, but forbids anyone from leaving. Instead of “stealing” children physically, the entity orders that they be placed in a machine, where they are “transferred into the light.” Essentially they are being turned into energy within the Datasphere.
In this example I am just tinkering with the "antagonist", but you could also make some interesting changes to the miners and their families. Perhaps they all have crystal clear skin, that reveals their organs. Perhaps they can only speak by "reading lips" and they never make a sound.
4) Finally, find a way to offer a memorable twist
If I were running this adventure I would have the villagers constantly speak negatively of the Datasphere entity, in both fear and anger. In addition, I would have the entity be completely unapproachable by conventional means. There would be no simple way of encountering the Datasphere entity; the party would have to brainstorm ways to engage the entity, or at least provoke a reaction.
When the characters finally do make contact, I would give the players opportunities to uncover the truth, offering new and exciting dilemmas and moral conflicts. In this sample adventure, I would have the Datasphere entity not be a true villain at all, but instead a recently awakened, ancient medical program. The entity could reveal (or it could be uncovered through investigation) that the villagers had all been afflicted by an invisible, and irreversible mutation when the Iron Wind passed through the region. Simple exposure to sunlight would kill the villagers instantly, and so the entity has found that the only way to keep its new "patients" alive is to demand their complete authority.
Having played years of traditional fantasy games I now prefer dealing with individual motives rather than the simplistic and unrealistic concepts of "good" or "evil". Especially in Numenera, I don't like having "obvious" antagonists, or any at all. Don't feel bound by tradition!
5) Don't be afraid to keep the adventure open ended… even for yourself
As to what the Datasphere entity was doing with the children that it turned into pure energy, who knows? I might not even consider the outcome until later in the adventure. When I'm writing a Numenera adventure, typically I don't plan for any particular outcome, I just let the adventure come to a naturally weird conclusion. I'll be honest, I may even make the outcome more weird if I feel like I haven't done a good job properly peppering the session with interesting aspects of the Ninth World.
How do you create weirdness?
This is just my way of creating Numenera adventures, and I'm learning all the time? How do you go about creating a truly weird and unique story? Do you start from a different angle?
Let us know!
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