Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Numenera - The Devil's Spine - Session 9

Once Upon a Time in the Ninth World

Welcome to our group's campaign log for The Devil's Spine, a mega-adventure by +Monte Cook for the Numenera campaign setting.  

Originally this was going to be a pure and simple campaign log.  Nothing more, nothing less.  Just a record for me and my friends to keep track of what was going on in the game.  But I've decided that, as we progress through the adventure, I'd do some commentary and/or reviews on different parts of the adventure.  So... SPOILERS!


  • Belmodan, a Resourceful Seeker who Wields a Whip, played by +andrew lyon 
    • New Focus: Collects Bounties
  • Keane, a Rebellious Glaive who Likes to Break Things, played by +Craig McCullough 
    • New Focus:  Needs No Weapon
  • Nero, a Mad Nano who Travels Through Time, played by +David Howard 
    • New Focus: Would Rather Be Reading
  • PL4T0, an Artificially Intelligent Jack who Resides in Silicon, played by +Marc Plourde
    • New Focus: No Change
  • Ruun, an Exiled Glaive who Gazes into the Abyss, played by +William Keller 
    • New Focus:  Wears Spurs

Previously on The Devil's Spine

Session 9:  Attack of the Cypherids

So after all that work detailing a Weird Western mini-setting to throw smack dab into the middle of The Devil's Spine my players decide to skip all of the potentially fun 19th century/9th World crossover stuff and stick to the script.  Sure, when they were in the middle of Uxphon, a city that's only briefly described in both the Numenera corebook and The Devil's Spine, they spend tons of time chatting it up with NPC's that I have to flesh out on the fly.  That's why I did all that homework over the last week-and-a-half, creating a rich and vibrant Colorado town to explore while the players continue their quest for the Impossible Blade.

Nope.  Not interested.  

Here's how it played out last night...

The five heroes from the far, far future of the Ninth World needed to get their bearings.  Through the wondrous weird science of Dr. Kell's Kairological Tether Translator, each member of the party had a new focus, along with some corresponding surface thoughts and memories about their new place in history: 1879 C.E.  But there was still a lot of the weird of the Ninth World that lingered.  For instance, each member of the team had their original gear with them, along with their cyphers, oddities, and artifacts.  But it didn't take long to realize that some of these devices were not as unknown to the distant past as they would have expected.

As the party searched the belongings of the prospectors just recently scared off by Ruun, they found a few cyphers that had been panned out of the nearby stream.  Somehow these futuristic items had become as common as gold nuggets in this world.  

While searching through their gear, Nero noticed something unsettling: the Kairological Tether Translator was missing!  So the Mad Nano went back into the fast moving stream to search for the device.

It was right about this time that I decided to throw not one, nor two, nor three, but four GM Intrusions at the party:

  1. When Nero went in the water to search for the Kairological Tether Translator, the current knocked him over and dragged him towards the water fall.
  2. Then Belmodan tried to use his energy whip to lasso Nero, but since he lost his focus and whipmaster-like ability, the Seeker got dragged into the water as well.
  3. Nero was dangling over the falls, and Belmodan was barely holding onto him, clinging to a nearby rock, when Ruun tried to help.  But the glaive, bolstered by a lot more oxygen in this time period, overshot his run and accidentally did a swan dive off of the cliff, splashing into the water below.
  4. A friggin' grizzly bear appeared and attacked Keane.

Four GM Intrusions in under five minutes.  Boo yah!

The Friggin' Grizzly encounter was a fun tussle.  Want a friggin' grizzly in your game?  

Level 6 creature, 40 health, 10 damage claw attacks.  That'll get yer pals goin'.  

Our party fought the beast off for several rounds before Marc had the bright idea to use PL4T0's Hedge Magic ability to distract the animal.  PL4T0 created a smell of honey nearby, and the bear followed it into the woods.  Bear encounter averted!  Oh, and when Ruun emerged from the water he was carrying the Kairological Tether Translator.

It was about that time that I gave the party the view of a town at the base of the foothills.  It was a cozy little town, with a few dusty roads and a comfy saloon.  What a great place to explore!  I mean, how much fun would be for your typical Numenera group to come across a Wild West town while carrying oddities and cyphers while wearing weird futuristic garb?  I was really relishing this roleplaying experience!  

But as I mentioned before, my players looked upstream, figured that the cyphers were coming from further in the mountains, and decided that they didn't need any clues, or hints, or NPC interaction before continuing on the main quest.  The heck with side-quests, right?  Well I wasn't expecting this.  I figured that we'd get to the town, and they'd spend the rest of our session (about 90 minutes at this point) interacting with townsfolk.  So I had to briefly stop the game to read on a bit and prep the next scene, something I was planning for next week.

It was an awkward pause. 

Anyway, as I was saying the party headed up into the mountains along the path that followed the stream.  About two or three miles up the trail they encountered a bizarre old man fishing.  The guy said his name was Gus, and he was really interested in the party's floating Parisian clock (PL4T0).  The man was a well-to-do native of the nearby town of Derry's Ford, and he talked a bit about the community.  He even mentioned that they had an uplifting establishment called Nero's Saloon that the party should visit ...

... wouldn't that have been fun?

Gus kept mentioning how he'd love to create something as marvelous as the party's hovering jack PL4T0.  

"I'm gonna build something just like you one day."  

While interacting with Gus, PL4T0 decided to be mean and tell the man that he was going to die in one-hundred and forty-seven days.  Marc thought that playing the twisted, prophetic clock would be fun.  But when PL4T0 locked eyes with Gus, the bot had a crazy flashback.  He remembered a voice during his creation, a voice and accent just like Gus'.  

"Look!  I've gone and built somethin' just like that thing I saw all those years ago!"  

The weirdness factor on this interaction caused PL4T0 to reboot.  

Of course, this was all a GM Intrusion, and I don't know how it'll play into the rest of the story (if at all), but hey, it was weird.  What made it funny was that Gus asked to examine PL4T0, and Belmodan happily handed over his party's jack, in exchange for a very special artifact the fisherman kept nearby.  While Gus examined all of PL4T0's inner workings, the rest of the team got a look at Suzanne.

Suzanne was a gleaming, numenera-infused lever-action rifle.  The barrel was made of glassteel, and the stock from synth.  This beast was a level 6 artifact, that functioned as a heavy weapon, did 6 damaged at long range with an additional 2 fire damage.  Since it used ammo, it's depletion was a 1d6, however there was something special about this numenera-rifle.  If the weapon ran out of ammo, the user just needed to bury it in some soil for 1d6 hours.  While buried, the weapon could draw nutrients and minerals from the surrounding material and reload itself.  Neato!

Gus also gave the party a small notebook with a bunch of weird writing inside including a string of letters written in The Truth:  ABACBBAABDCDE.  Gus didn't know what this meant and couldn't read The Truth, nor any of the other words in the book.  

Eventually Gus handed PL4T0 back to the party, and told them to be careful as they traveled towards the massive Pit that awaited them deep in the mountains at the end of the trail.  Gus said that the Pit was dangerous, surrounded by dead bodies, and most likely the source of all the weird items in the nearby streams.  

So the party bid Gus adieu and continued to head up the path, now intent on visiting this place called the Pit.  When they finally reached the bizarre scene, they came upon a discovery that they'd sooner expect in the Ninth World.  A vast, two-hundred and fifty foot wide circular pit at the center of a seemingly ancient structure.  The ledge of the pit was tapered, so Belmodan moved forward for a closer look...

... only to get attacked by eight Cypherids!  

Oh Cypherids, how I love you so much already.  Cypherids are straight out of the brand new Ninth World Bestiary 2 by +Bruce R Cordell of +Monte Cook Games.  But even though these little buggers finally have stats, they are based on a game-concept that I've been enamored with since the dawn of the Numenera campaign setting.  Back when I first read through that original corebook in 2013, I discovered that one of the drawbacks to carrying too many cyphers at once was how they could bond together and form some kind of dangerous entity.  

Like a Cypherid.  

+Marc Plourde compared Cypherids to the tiny robots in the classic movie Batteries Not Included.  Especially when they started to procreate during the battle.  As the party fought the eight Cypherids, I used the following strategy for these little beasties.  Each round, the Cypherids would get to use a random cypher against the party, and then they'd all attack. On two of the rounds I targeted a PC and had their own cyphers bond together as a new Cypherid via GM Intrusion.  

The party managed to kill off seven of the Cypherids:  five of the originals and both new "Cypherid babies" created from the numenera of PL4T0 and Keane.  Another Cypherid came under the control of PL4T0 mid-battle.  Finally, a pair of Cypherids used a mount-summoning cypher to ride off into the sunset.  The party never caught up to those metallic, futuristic, automaton cowpokes...

... they just kept ridin' and ridin' until they reached Carson City and settled down to raise a family.  


"You're no more than an artifact or discover, Marc.  You're swag.  You're floating swag." - Jim to Marc, commenting on PL4T0's reality.

"I'd just like to point out that the way you described the Ninth World reminds me of a landfill in New Jersey." - Marc commenting on Jim's description of Numenera.

"It's from Paris." - Nero discussing PL4T0 with Gus.

"You were turned off.  We let him touch you for it." - Nero to PL4T0, after he was examined in exchange for Suzanne.

"Well, I'm not 'Crazy Ruun' anymore... I'm 'Cowboy Ruun.'" - Will discusses his change in focus.

"When Cyphers go bad!" - Marc after the Cypherids showed up.

"So the Cypherids ride off into the sunset?" - David was right.

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