Monday, December 29, 2014

#SantaGaming - Numenera - Ninth World Christmas Special

When I said "Six" Santa Sessions I really meant "Three"

Okay, that's not entirely true, but the week before Christmas my daughter and I came down with the flu.  Then my wife came down with the flu.  Then I got bronchitis.  Nearly two weeks later, I'm just finally starting to feel like myself.  The fact that I managed to run two Santa-themed Savage Worlds games is a fracking Christmas miracle!   By this point I was supposed to have run an AD&D 2nd Edition Council of Wyrms game, and Carrie was going to run Basic Fantasy RPG.  That would've left one final game, a North Pole Recursion inspired game of The Strange, for New Years Eve. 

Get ready to be disappointed! 

So this Ninth World Christmas Special is going to be the third and final installment of our six Santa sessions.  This is probably a good thing, because the first session, when we played Accursed and made Santa a wereboar, is still being discussed by all three of my kids.  I'm expecting a call from the school counselor about how the girls killed "Santa" and saved the wereindeer.  That's not to say we may not run another session of "something" this week, it just won't involve Santa Claus.

I guess you really can have too much of a good thing.

But I can promise, with absolute sincerity, that this Numenera version of the Santa Claus story is probably the most weird, twisted, and possibly grotesque of all my #SantaGaming creations.  What made this game even more fantastic was that it reunited the same cast of characters from my Disney World Numenera Adventure I ran almost a year ago!  My wife and daughters were obviously regular players in my Disenchanted Tales campaign that I ran during the first half of 2014, but my mom (the kids call her Nini) was just a guest star when we played in public at Disney's Art of Animation Resort.  She knew that she would get roped into some kind of game while staying with us this week, but I don't think she expected a creepy take on Santa. 

Sorry Mom, but I've learned a lot about GM'ing Numenera in a year. 

The Three Princesses of Nihliesh… and friends

  • Merida, a Rugged Glaive who Carries a Quiver, played by Mommy (Jen)
  • Elsa, a Graceful Nano who Wears a Sheen of Ice, played by Carrie
  • Anna, a Swift Jack who Entertains, played by Evie
  • Poppins, a Strong-Willed Nano who Controls Gravity, played by Nini (my mom!)

Ninth World Christmas Special

Several months since adventuring with their friends Kronk and Vanellope, the Three Princesses of Nihliesh - Elsa, Anna, and Merida - were visiting the city of Qi when they received a guest at the inn.  Poppins, their former adventuring companion from the Fields of Frozen Flowers, had recently made a home in the village of Cybernion, along the Wyr River.  But disaster had struck her new home!  She was out adventuring, righting wrongs and performing deeds of courage and tidiness, and had to leave home for several weeks.  But when the Strong-Willed Nano returned to Cybernion, all of the citizens appeared to be gone.  The houses surrounding the walled village were hastily abandoned, and there was a low hum coming from within the walls.  Even stranger, the sound of muffled wailing, crying, and moaning could be heard.  Knowing that this was too dangerous to face alone, Poppins traveled to Qi to find help.

The three princesses wasted no time, and packed their weapons and gear quickly before departing for Poppins' village.  Cybernion was just a few days walk east of Qi.  When the adventuring party arrived, everything was just as Poppins described: the hum, the wailing, and the abandoned homes.  Merida thought that maybe something could be bubbling up from the earth below, and looked for a well on the northern side of town.  But when she came to the well, Merida found that the group was not alone.  A travelling man, who introduced himself as Allayt Iotr (Ah-late Yoder) was filling up his ceramic jugs at the well, and loading them onto a heavily laden Aneen.  Allayt told the party that he arrived the  previous evening, and was hoping to do some trade with the villagers of Cybernion, but became fearful when no one came out to greet him.  He spent the night on the northern end of the village, and swore that he saw a spectral image in the night atop the sturdy walls.  A superstitious man, Allayt believed this to be a ghost for sure!

By this point in the story, Anna, Elsa, and Poppins were listening.  Elsa shook her head as Allayt concluded his story.

"Ghosts aren't real!" the little graceful nano proclaimed. 

The princess's determination bolstered Allayt's nerve somewhat, and he agreed to enter the village walls with the rest of the party, should that be their plan.  The travelling sage carried a short blade, and seemed somewhat sure of how to use the weapon.  Anna drew her trusty crossbow and told the rest of the party that it was time to uncover the mysteries of Cybernion. 

Sure enough, as the party approached the gate into town there was a noticeable hum, and the ground was slightly vibrating.  Both Elsa and Merida could hear the sound of the wailing and moaning, which was certainly unsettling.  They also noticed upon passing into the village, that all of their cyphers started to activate, but quickly shut down.  It was as if some kind of signal was reaching out to each piece of numenera carried by the party. 

Entering into the courtyard, it appeared that whatever occurred happened quickly.  The stables were empty, but feed was rotting in the troughs.  The nearby market had wares and foodstuffs on display, but no staff was seen.  Merida decided to investigate the market, hoping that the food could give some kind of clue as to how long it had been since the strange events occurred.  The nog booth gave the party a sense of perspective.  In Cybernion there were no milk-producing domesticated animals, but several egg-laying lizards.  So rather than drinking "milk", Cybernion-folk drank "nogs" - egg drinks.  Merida gave each jar of nog a sniff and figured that they had been sitting out in the hot sun for at least two days. 

Poppins was upset that her fellow townsfolk were still nowhere to be found.  She heard some of the wailing in a tent near the market, and decided to go investigate.  Almost as soon as Poppins entered the tent she ran back out and grabbed a hold of Anna's shoulders. 

"Don't go in there... it's just too terrible!" Poppins cried. 

Merida drew her sword, and with one hand pulled the tent down revealing its contents.  But even the rugged glaive had a hard time keeping her breakfast down after seeing the condition of the former "villagers."  On the ground were two strange sights.  The first was a ball, made out of flesh and hair, with an eyeball here, some lips there, maybe an ear.  Next to the ball was a pile of building blocks, but instead of being fashioned from wood or clay, they too were made out flesh, with bits of bone and some finger nails sticking out.  Both the ball and the pile of blocks were emitting muffled cries. 

Rather than figuring out exactly what to call the weird creations, Anna and Elsa started arguing over what to name them.  They spent so much time fighting, actually, that when Allayt started to cry out "ghost" they ignored the shaking man.  Poppins and Merida eventually heard the travelling sage's whimper, and asked where he saw the specter.  Allayt pointed to a house across the plaza, and Merida told him to lead the way.  Allayt, sword in hand, brought the team to front of a small building and bravely entered. 

As soon as Allayt stepped through the doorway a loud voice boomed from within the building.  "Ho, ho, ho!" the voice shouted.  There was a blood-curdling, and juicy scream, and then silence. 

"Aww crap!" muttered Merida, who pulled her flash detonation cypher from it's pouch. 

The rugged glaive tossed the small sphere into the room before entering with Anna at her side.  On the floor was a box made out of flesh, and a coiled spring of ligament extending out, connected to Allayt's severed, but living, head.  Behind the pitiful sage was an image of a red-robed man, with leather boots and belt, and a red elfin hat.  Its visage sported a bright white beard and two rosy red cheeks.  The "ghost" had a spectral appearance, allowing Merida and Anna to look right through its body and see the opposing wall.  But the image seemed to be glitching, shimmering in weird ways, moving a few inches and then resetting.  Elsa begged her friends to leave the house while the image was still stunned by Merida's flash detonation. 

Elsa led the team towards the local Aeon Priest's home while giving an explanation to her teammates.  The nano believed that the image was native to the datasphere, which meant that some kind of nearby device was allowing the entity to bleed through to the Ninth World.  Since the hum got louder as the party moved further into the village, it made sense that maybe the Aeon Priest had uncovered the source of the ghost.  Once at the Aeon Priest's home, the party was briefly stopped by a locked door.  Poppins knocked and a glowing inverted pyramid appeared. 

"Hi!  I'm Valma!  What can I do for you visitors today?" the pyramid asked.

The strong-willed nano remembered this annoying entity well.  Discovered by the Dalrik, the local Aeon Priest, the creation had followed the man around just about everywhere.  Not wanting to engage the Valma in conversation, Poppins spun up a quick esotery and hovered up to the second floor window, where she entered the home.  Elsa and Anna didn't mind chatting briefly with Valma, and traded a few of their own secrets for some of the entity's.  It seemed that Dalrik was inside the home, but couldn't come to the door because he now resembled a pogo-stick. 

The Valma was still chatting with the three-princesses when Merida turned around only to see a terrifying image.  The ghost was approaching!  Merida drew her bow and let loose an arrow, but it had no effect.  The red-robed ghost then threw a ball of energy at Merida, which the rugged glaive dodged.  Merida fired another arrow, but still no effect.  The second ball of energy wasn't directly on target, but as it splashed against the wall near Merida, its effects became known.  Merida screamed as her left arm withered down to the size and shape of a wooden doll's arm, complete with puppet strings made of thick black hairs.  Elsa knew that time was running out, and the Valma was no closer to letting the three princesses into the home, so she gave the door a blast of ice, freezing its hinges.  Anna then broke the door down, bashing through with her crossbow, and tumbling into the room. 

Anna and Elsa found themselves face to face with Poppins, who was also in the chamber.  All three were staring at a large, red orb in the center of the room.  The device was one meter in diameter, and had four antenna sticking out of its glowing red shell.  An ominous lettering marked the side of the discovery:  RUD-01P#. 

Poppins scanned the discovery, and told Elsa that it was possible to interact with the numenera device.  Anna had her own way of "interaction", and she started bashing the antennae with her quarterstaff.  Merida had one good arm left, and used it to yank another antennae loose.  Once a third antennae was gone, the ghost disappeared, fading back into the datasphere. 

"Ho, ho, bye!" the ghost cried out. 

Although damaged, the device was still active and Elsa hoped that she could mitigate some of the ghost's effects.  Grabbing the last remaining antennae, Elsa's realized that she couldn't reverse the transformations, but she could "end" them.  Her only other option would be to leave the device running, allowing the poor, wailing, toy-villagers to continue a horrible existence.

"These choices are crap!" Merida balked, after Elsa gave the party their options. 

Elsa decided to end the signal that was keeping the toys alive, causing them all to wither and die.  The party all let out a collective "eww" as Merida's puppet arm fell away from her body.  The rugged glaive was not pleased. 

But Elsa and Poppins believed that, working together, they could possibly hack the discovery and come up with another way to replace Merida's lost limb.  Gaining access to the datasphere, Elsa transmitted pure information in the form of an arm straight to Merida's body.  The sleeve of Merida's jacket filled up, as if her original arm had returned.  But when the glaive pulled back the sleeve, she saw that her new "arm" was made entirely of energy: an endless stream of information. 

The party came to terms with the fact that there was little else they could do for the small village of Cybernion, but they still had to warn the people of Qi about the dangers of RUD-01P#.  They could only hope that enough people had fled the red-robed ghost's terrible wrath, and that the community of Cybernion would once again grow and prosper. 

Happy holidays from the Ninth World of Numenera!


Initially my son Cooper (who is 4) was going to sit at the table and roll dice with us.  He wanted to play Mickey Mouse, so I tried to work a way around making his character fit better in the Ninth World.  Here is our exchange:

Jim - "Cooper, is Mickey a robot?"

Cooper - "No!"
Jim - "Cooper, is Mickey a mutant?"
Cooper - "No!"
Jim - "What's Mickey then?"
Cooper - "He's a bear!"

Nini - "I rolled a 1… what does that mean?" 
Carrie & Evie [screaming] - "GM Intrusion!"
Jim - "That means, whenever a 1 is rolled, something terrible happens."
Nini - "Aww shit." 

Jim - "It looks like a ball… a fleshy ball made out of hair and eyes."
Evie - "Can I name it?" 

"You hear a 'ho ho ho', and a very juicy scream." - Jim made everyone cringe with this description.

"I don't know if I want to go in there if the 'ho-ing' one is in there." - Jen was still cringing. 

"I'm a fleshy jack in a box.. *snap snap*… I'm a fleshy jack in a box… *snap snap*…" - Evie's new song.

"I'm a real boy!" - Carrie thought Merida's new arm was hysterical.

"This is starting to feel a little like 'Star Trek', and V-Ger, looking at those letters!" - Nini figured out her son's inspiration for RUD-01P#.  

"Here's the thing, if we join with it, do we become one?" - Nini almost gave her GM son a neat idea.  But the game was weird enough at that point. 

Previous #SantaGaming Spectacles

If this is your first chance to take a look at how our family did the Holiday Season 2014, you may have missed one of the first two sessions:


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