|The Orbital Listening Post SB-426 by Miska Fredman|
A Recipe for Adventure
I've never shared a full, home-brewed adventure on Living 4 Crits. I've come close several times, walking readers through my thought processes as I draft stories. When I create a new creature or artifact, I'm quick to post the stats, and the same goes for any new and unusual game mechanics. Recursions are a particular favorite of mine to share, as the small setting kernels are easily "plug and play" for anyone's campaign of The Strange.
But still, I've never shared an adventure.
Like most role-playing game enthusiasts, I carry that dream of creating the next legendary module that fans will be talking about for decades. The next "Ravenloft" or "Keep on the Borderlands." Certainly I believe that I have the storytelling ability to "tell" a compelling story, which is why I enjoy being a game master. But taking those thoughts and ideas, and putting them down on paper as guidelines for others (not myself) to use has always felt like an enormous obstacle.
There are three barriers that obstruct my quest to write a publishable adventure:
- The adventure documents I create are simple, fairly short outlines, no more than two to three pages.
- I never write out flavor text or dialogue, I just generate this on the fly.
- If, mid-adventure, I feel like something isn't working, I have no problem changing the rest of the story, or even the plot.
This totally works for me, as I believe it would for most GM's who write their own material. But I'm still not sure how to translate this into something more sharable.
Well today I'm going to try!
I'm still not ready to share a fully fleshed out adventure, but perhaps this is a step in the right direction. In this post you will find an adventure outline that should a creative GM everything they would need to run this adventure again, as well as some room to add their own material. Since I've never done this before, I'm interested in hearing your feedback on my process. Maybe if I clean this up, and add some meat to the outline's bones, I can get it in a future CypherCaster Magazine issue!
Metal Myk's Mercs is a short adventure intended as an introduction to both Numenera as well as the Into the Night campaign sourcebook. The adventure takes characters from the city of Nihliesh to the floating remains of a dead outpost in The Phaeton Halo. I admit, some of the inspiration for this adventure came from a classic 1980's sci-fi epic: The Last Starfighter!
But the primary source of inspiration came from an incredible map by +Miska Fredman. Orbital Listening Post SB-426. This hand drawn map details a six level station that could be host for all sorts of adventures. It's a virtual dungeon in space… perfect for Numenera. Actually there are quite a few of Miska's maps that would be great for the Ninth World, from a crashed starship to the remains of a fallen giant mechanical being. Make sure to visit Miska's Patreon page and become a patron!
My wife Jennifer wanted me to make sure to include one last source of inspiration for this adventure, or at least for the adventure name. It involves Jimmy Fallon, Channing Tatum, and a certain "magic" movie. You can watch the video on YouTube here.
Metal Myk's Mercs - Adventure Outline
- The adventure begins in Nihliesh, the great city at the edge of The Beyond.
- The characters may have started their adventure in Nihliesh, or perhaps they are passing through.
- This adventure works best if the characters are strapped for shins.
- Perhaps the characters are Churn refiners, and they are looking to become adventurers.
- In the session I ran, the characters are traveling from Seshar to the Sea Kingdom of Ghan and are broke.
- Bel's Bar & Coffins
- This establishment was first featured in Tales of the Broken Mask, Session 2, an adventure I ran for my weekly Cypher System group.
- Bel's Bar & Coffins is a small establishment in the First Tier of Nihliesh
- It barely qualifies as much more than a pair of rooms adjacent to a tube connecting two Churn workshops.
- Flickering lights line the ceiling, powered by unknown sources within Nihliesh.
- The floors haven't been swept in months, and are thick with orange buildup.
- The rooms are damp and smell of sewer gas masked by incense.
- The rooms are both too hot and too cold. Near the vents it is unbearably warm. But anywhere else it is frigid.
- The first room is the bar, worked by Bel.
- Seven stools, each connected to the bar, line the front. Massive jugs of various liquids sit behind the bar.
- The Coffins are a room of sleeping pods.
- One wall has 45 total coffins. Nine across, five high.
- Each coffin is two feet across by two feet high and eight feet deep.
- In a former world, these small chambers were possibly some sort of stasis pods, used to keep living creatures in suspended animation.
- Bel just rents them out for one shin a night. Typically they are all full.
- GM Intrusion Opportunity: A player tries to wake from the pod, but accidentally engages the stasis cycle. The pod closes and starts to flood with a viscous liquid designed for another life form. A human or visitant submerged will take 3 Might damage for every round submerged in the substance. Level 4 difficulty.
- A blonde human woman who owns Bel's Bar & Coffins.
- Bel's face is never visible, it is always covered by a dark, visored mask.
- Bel is a member of the Blessed Hunters of the Broken Mask, a religious order of bounty hunters and assassins, and acts as both a fixer as well as an agent.
Meeting Metal Myk
- Bel will introduce the characters to Metal Myk after they wake up from a night's rest.
- Perhaps she wants something in return, and is setting them up with this work as a trade.
- It is obvious that Bel has worked with Metal Myk before.
- Bel knows the following pieces of information about Metal Myk:
- Metal Myk is also a fixer, but not aligned directly with the Broken Mask.
- Metal Myk often approaches the Churn working collectives for possible work, before turning it over to Numenera hunters and adventurers.
- Metal Myk has mentioned in the past that he works for someone known as Ghamalso the Collector. Bel does not know who this is, nor does anyone else in Nihliesh.
- For more information about Ghamalso the Collector see pages 76 - 79 of Numenera: Into the Night.
- Metal Myk
- Level 4 Sentient Automaton
- Lover not a fighter: level 2 for all combat activity
- Mechanical mind: level 6 mental defense
- Health 12, Armor 3
- Appears to be a shiny mechanical man, with angular plating around all of his features.
- His voice is masculine, bright, and cheerful, with a slight echo as if it is coming from the inside of a tin can.
- He is overly pleasant, and very prone to flattery.
- If a character tries to notice anything in particular about Metal Myk, they will realize that being close to him causes a metallic taste in their mouth.
- Metal Myk state that he oversees several nearby outposts, and one (Outpost Ki) is currently under a terrible threat.
- According to Metal Myk, Outpost Ki is one of several outposts near Nihliesh that bear significance for the Churn refining operations of the city.
- This is not true.
- If the characters speak with anyone regarding Churn operations in Nihliesh, they will find that no one knows of these outposts. No one has even heard of them. No one but Metal Myk.
- His last crew was not able to take care of the attacks. Requires problem solvers, not soldiers.
- Says that the creatures attacking the outpost should be of no concern… they are like shellfish. Learned in Ancuan of similar creatures called scallops.
- He may also refer to them as "clam-like" or "bivalves."
- If pressured, he will say that they are very intelligent scallops, no larger than two hands in width.
- This is a lie.
- Metal Myk will downplay any discussion of these creature's size.
- Metal Myk is unwilling to go to the location of Outpost Ki, as he is needed in Nihliesh.
- The threat of these scallops will eventually destroy the outpost. May refer to an "insidious plot", but he does not elaborate.
- Payment is 100 shins for each character, negotiable up to 125.
- The characters are given a map showing Outpost Ki, which he refers to as a "plate." He asks that the outpost is protected for one evening.
- Metal Myk is a pawn of Ghamalso the Collector, a strange humanoid who inhabits the Phaeton Halo in the Night out past Naharrai.
- Outpost Ki is actually the name of a long abandoned outpost in the Phaeton Halo.
- Metal Myk is constantly on the lookout for humans from the Ninth World to send to Ghamalso.
- What the Collector does with these humans is not Metal Myk's concern.
- It most likely isn't pleasant.
- The Outpost serves as a holding cell for the humans sent there, and every several weeks Ghamalso will pilot his own Nightcraft to this outpost and pick up his new deliveries.
- Recently a Sorg Warbreaker (Into the Night, pages 152 - 153) took an interest in this outpost, and it has killed the last two deliveries.
- Metal Myk needed to find a crew with more useful skills to deal with this threat, so that it would not cause his master any trouble.
- Following the cloth map given to the party by Metal Myk, the characters end up at a metal disk is in the hills.
- The disk is at the top of a rocky hill, hovering just above the ground.
- The disk is 25 feet across, silver, and has a slight hum.
- The top of the disk has a mirror finish.
- At the center of the disk is a thin spike, with a strange circular panel resting on the top showing various hard to describe images.
- There are definitely no scallops in sight. No shells, no remains of shells.
- GM Intrusion: The sight of the disk causes one of the characters to vomit. It should be explained to the player that somehow the sight is incredibly upsetting and nightmarish, despite not initially appearing so. The affected character gains an inability when interacting with the disk.
- As soon as one of the player characters steps onto the disk, the entire group is teleported elsewhere.
Transit to Outpost Ki
- There is an initial rush of speed as the character are dragged through space and time.
- They see light, fire, smoke, darkness.
- If time permits, have each player share a story about their character's past. Something from their childhood. Award the most interesting story by letting that player gain training with a random skill (similar to Flex Skill) until they use their next recovery roll.
- The characters may not know it, but they are now on an outpost within the Phaeton Halo, slowly orbiting the sun amidst the wrecks and rubble of a billion years.
- Once the characters arrive at the outpost, make all the players close their eyes.
- The characters should feel alone, isolated, and afraid and this will help everyone stay in character.
- Don't let players open their eyes unless they need to briefly look at their character sheets. Then they need to close their eyes again.
- Until the characters use some kind of light source, their eyes should remain shut.
- The situation:
- The characters feel like they are falling, and are a little sick to their stomach.
- They hear a low hum and many gears or machines grinding around them.
- The smell of burning electronics and synth is in the air.
- If the characters call out they can hear each other.
- This remains in place until someone turns on a light source, or if someone can see in the dark.
- The characters are, and shall remain weightless in zero-g gravity throughout the entirety of this adventure.
- While weightless, the characters must use handholds to move about, or any other pieces of equipment or numenera.
- The Datasphere
- If a nano or other character with possible access to the datasphere attempts to make a connection, instead they are connected to Outpost Ki's onboard artificial intelligence: Guy.
- Guy was once the last resident of Outpost Ki, and rather than die, he chose to transfer his consciousness to the Outpost computer. Unfortunately as the outpost's systems deteriorated, so did Guy.
- GM Intrusion: The character attempts to access either the datasphere or Guy, and Guy tries to take over part of the character's mind.
Exploring Outpost Ki
- The ancient aliens that existed on this station were four to five foot tall, green skinned creatures.
- They had eight tentacle like limbs, including two legs and six arms.
- At the end of two "primary" arms were seven finger-like digits.
- It is important to note that most of the outpost is not fully described. GM's should customize portions of the map to suit their liking.
- The rest of the chambers within the facility include:
- The holographic image of an ancient alien, going about their regular routine. Cooking, cleaning, checking sensors that are no longer operational.
- An old, alien janitor closet with several metal buckets and a weird vacuum that can be reversed with a successful difficulty 2 numenera roll. That would allow it to be used as a transportation device while on the station.
- Some sleeping racks for the ancient alien crew of the station. The racks are designed for their anatomy. A successful difficulty 3 Intellect based search roll will reveal 1d3 oddities.
- A weapon turret at the bottom of the outpost with three Spectral Bulb generators. These are the only working computers on the craft, and if repaired they can be used to attack the Sorg Warbreaker.
- Spectral Bulb: Level 5 difficulty to repair, Speed to use, 10 damage.
- On the Outpost Map at the top of this page, the characters start in the center of the chamber on the top of the map.
- The floors of the outpost are made of smooth metal, while the walls are made of aged, yellow-white synth that is often scarred and broken.
- Most of the controls and devices in the outpost are no longer operational. Characters can attempt to open these controls for scrap, cyphers, or oddities with a difficulty 5 numenera knowledge roll.
- The doors inside the facility are all opened without difficulty.
- Found on pages 152 and 153 of Numenera: Into the Night
- This massive, hippo-sized, weapon wielding, spacefaring bivalve is currently trying to break into Outpost Ki.
- The Sorg Warbreaker, if contacted telepathically, is interested in numenera and raw materials.
- Once they know the characters are on board, it becomes even more interested in cracking open the station.
- Every once in a while the Sorg Warbreaker will attack the outpost.
- The damage to the station forces every character to make a difficulty 3 speed defense roll, difficulty 4 if the characters are near a wall or piece of furniture.
- Failure on this roll causes the character to slap into an object, taking 3 points of Might damage.
- The third attack will cause more significant damage:
- A crack in the outpost's hull causes a loss of atmosphere. Without a difficulty 5 repair roll, this will force all the characters in the room to start suffering from vacuum (difficulty 5 might defense roll, or go down one step on the damage track) in five rounds.
- Acidic gas leak. Difficulty 4 might defense roll, or the characters in the room will start taking 5 damage per round. The gas persists for three rounds until it is vented, or the room is evacuated.
- A release of evaporated medical supplies from the outpost's laboratory. Difficulty 4 Intellect defense roll or suffer from minor hallucination, giving the character a compulsion that another character is a threat.
- GM Intrusion: The sight of the Sorg Warbreaker, coupled with the infinite darkness of space, causes the character to panic. They refuse to allow other characters near a window for the next minute.
- The Sorg Warbreaker will continue to attack the station, until they break through. If the player characters don't find some way to deal with the creature it will continue to cause more damage to the station, eventually causing a crack in the hull that will vent the characters out into space.
- If you have more than three players in your group, you should add a second Sorg Warbreaker.
- The most obvious solution would be to use the Spectral Bulb generators to attack the Sorg Warbreaker. Each attack will anger the creature, causing it to attack the station again. Without a character or two making necessary repairs, this could lead to a total party kill.
- Another solution would be to lure the Sorg Warbreaker through the large cargo door on the main level and deal with it directly.
- James' Note: Often I do not have any idea how an adventure will end. I like to see whatever ideas my players come up with, and I go with the flow. Feel free to come up with even more options.
- Once the Sorg Warbreaker is defeated, the characters are stuck.
- There is no portal back to Earth.
- They end up trapped on the outpost.
- If part of a campaign, let the players role-play this "survival mode". Perhaps they need to bring the Sorg Warbreaker inside the station for food (and numenera.)
- Alternatively they could raid some ancient food stores and see if anything remains, including water.
- After several weeks Ghamalso the Collector arrives, which could be the start of a whole new series of adventures Into the Night!
* * *
If you are interested in seeing how this adventure played out during out online one-shot, here's the video: