Anatomy of a Facepalm
Little House on the Prairie: What Happened To The Blind Sister?
RPG Knights - Salting the Wound
Sorry about that. Had to take a swig to wet the warblemeat.
Where was I?
Ah yes… I was falling…
…until Leve took a chance and took his foot back. The floor snapped shut, and Leve had timed it so that the beam ports only flickered open, then shut again as I hit the floor. Apparently, the trigger zone of the trap didn’t extend for the entire length of the trap. I was alive, but my underthings were a lot less tidy.
I clung to the wall again, and Leve tested the trigger zone to see how far along the floor it went. A challenging jump… for someone who isn’t me. I sailed over with little effort. Leve made the first jump on his end with no difficulty, but he misjudged the distance of the second jump. The floor opened, and he just barely grabbed the ledge with his fingertips. Hawmett and I dove to the edge of the pit just in time to catch Leve’s arms as he lost his grip. Once we were all safe on the other side of the trap, we took a deep breath, smiled, and carried on into the black.
Ben had the Jumping skill, the difficulty 5 (challenging) jump was reduced to 4 (difficult). He rolled an 18, and got past the trigger zone with ease. Leve’s player rolled a 17, then a 16 to get past the trap triggers. I was actually surprised that he didn’t spend effort on one or both of the jumps, against advice from the other players. I used an intervention to make the situation more interesting on the second jump, and Leve’s player gave Ben’s player the second XP. Leve succeeded in clearing the distance, but I complicated things by saying he only got far enough to grab the ledge with his fingertips. His compatriots had to succeed on a 2 (standard) Speed task to get to their friend before he fell, which they did.
It wasn’t long until the hallway opened into a cavernous room. It was large enough that our torch’s light couldn’t illuminate to the ceiling, or distant walls. I took a glow globe out of my pack, and rolled it as far as I could. The floor had no obstructions to impede its progress, so when it hit the gargantuan three-hoofed, tentacled giant, we all gasped in fear and almost ran the other way, but we realized quickly that it didn’t move… just a statue. We made our way toward the colossal effigy, and about halfway there we noticed that the scuttling noises weren’t intermittent anymore. They were constant, and getting closer. Fast.
Things skittered into the torchlight from the blackness. Perhaps mechanical, as the exoskeleton gave a telltale glint of metal. There was a disturbingly organic nature to the way they moved, however, that made the wrongness of the jittery, scratching skitter of their gait even more unnerving, and the alien way the vaguely arachnoid joints legs bent made our flesh want to crawl free from our bones. Our breath caught in our throats, and tears of terror blurred our vision as two billion years of evolved instinct screamed, “RUN!!!”
Running proved not to be an option. They were coming at us from all sides, and they were a lot quicker than us. It was fight, or die.
Leve powered up and blasted the first with an esoteric wave that he calls “Onslaught”, throwing it back. At that moment, all of the creatures appeared to change direction and vector straight toward him. Hawmett took a mighty swing at the first to reach us, smashing it to the side with his sword. We heard the clang of metal-on-metal, but also the splatter of blood and viscera. The three that made it past Hawmett leapt at Leve. Leve managed to dodge two of them, but one latched on to him, so I bashed it off of him with my mace. As it came free, it tore off chunks of Leve’s flesh and clothing.
Leve blasted one before it could set itself to jump again, taking off a couple of its legs and denting its body. Hawmett crumpled the one he was fighting with a powerful blow, spraying its pseudo-organic juice and innards in an arc. The two wounded Skitterclaws (as I called them afterward in my research notes) missed Leve, but the third, undamaged one latched on. I swung, but Leve was thrashing around, screaming, panicked, so I missed my mark.
The Skitterclaw that was latched on to Leve tried to sting him with some kind of proboscis. It made it through his esoteric ward, but not all the way to his skin. The proboscis then ejaculated a fluid filled with squirming larvae all over the front of Leve’s shirt. Screaming with disgust and terror, Leve managed to blast it, sending it spinning through the air, ripping off more chunks of skin. Hawmett, brutal and efficient, cleaved it in half in midair, spraying sickly, yellowish gore everywhere. I smashed the one I’d hit before, crushing it, and then the three of us made short work of the last one. Leve and I were wide-eyed and half mad with fear, yet shuddering in relief. Hawmett, shaken, but in better shape than Leve and I, wiped off his sword and said, ”We need to keep moving chums. I think the hallway we came though just collapsed.”
To be continued…
The preceding battle was with a group of four Skitterclaws (stats below). The players succeeded a difficult check against fear, then combat went pretty straightforward, with the players rolling exceptionally well most times, and using experience to re-roll when necessary. Since this was a one-shot, they were liberal with its use. In future, I’m going to separate the two types of experience into two types: Session, which are gained through intervention and spent on rerolls, cancelling interventions, and whatnot; and Story, which are given after the session to be used for character advancement.
Designing creatures for Numenera is easier than in any other system I’ve ever played. You decide on a level for that creature, and that gives you a base number of hit points and how difficult it is to hit. Decide how hard the creature hits, if it has any cool abilities, how it behaves in combat, and what it’s primary motivation in life is, and presto! Instant creature. The system is so simple that you can even do it on the fly with very little effort. Again, a boon for GMs who like to improvise.
Skitterclaws are a twisted creation of biomechanics that resemble giant, metallic, daddy long legs spiders that have too many legs that growing out of all the wrong places. Even more disturbing is the face, frozen in a rictus of pain and terror, on its thorax. They move with a jittery, unnatural, skittering motion, and their legs bend at unnatural angles. The wrongness of their movement is so disturbing to witness that it triggers phobia-like behaviour. This gets the victim to turn its back to run, which proves futile against this lightning fast abomination. The Skitterclaw can then latch itself onto the unprotected back of its quarry, and inject its larvae into it. The moment the host dies, fleshy Skitterclaw nymphs with faces resembling the victim’s, erupt from the host body and disperse into the wild.
Environment: Anywhere, but mostly in ruins specific to one specific prior civilization in particular.
Damage: Fear – Difficult check to resist, or flee at best speed away from the Skitterclaw for 3 rounds. Latch (none, but 2 damage if ripped off)
Inject (automatic if latched, challenging might roll once per day to fight off impregnated parasites which do 2 un-healable damage per day. The difficulty can be reduced by 2 levels if a medicine is created with the blood of the Skitterclaw that injected the victim. When the character dies, their body erupts tiny, disgusting, naked Skitterclaws, which scurry away into basements, caves, forests, and other dark places to feed, and grow…)
Combat: Skitterclaws move into their victim’s line of sight, moving in a way that causes fear in their quarry. They then move into melee as fast as possible, and attempt to latch onto a target. If they are latched on, they inject their target automatically without a roll, then scurry off to hide, and replenish their genetic material.
RPG Knights: Not At GenCon Blues
A new page for the enigmatic force known as Ben has been added to Shared Weave. Art, Warmachine mini mods, musings, and fanfic are on the menu, in Ben’s Bin!
Shared Weave fans who are Shaw customers will not be able to get to the site. You may also be having issues with other sites.
Shaw is having routing issues, and they’re currently working on it.
For more information:
RPG Knights: Stupid Space Knight Tricks
My name is Benthre, but most just call me Ben.
I’m a Jack. That means I can get through most tight spots with nothing more than a slick tongue, or deft hands. My chums tend to look to me for guidance, so even though we don’t have a leader as such, I’m it when it comes to crunch.
The big man is Hawmett. He’s one of them Glaive types. He’s quiet, and apart from glaring at people, he’s not much for social graces. He’s also obsessively superstitious, which gives him a million reasons to start swinging his Earthshakers at ya’. Still, he’s got some useful abilities because “the numenera sing in his presence”, whatever that means, and there’s a warm and squishy heart buried not so deep inside of the big man.
The one fidgeting over by the bar is Leve. Even for a Nano he’s an odd bird. He’s extremely stubborn, and apparently has a thing for clothing that went out of style years ago, in colours that assault the eye. He has focus issues on anything that doesn’t involve his interests, so he’s useless in problem solving situations, and NEVER rely on him to remember anything. What makes Leve special, and an effective member of my team, is his limitless well of willpower reserves. It’s gotten us out of some spots, and makes his esotera (magic, for the less edjamasticated folk) devastating.
For the Wednesday one shot, the players chose from the pre-generated characters in Vortex. Per the design of the characters’ backgrounds, Benthre chose Hawmett to know his secret, Hawmett’s player chose Benthre to be the one he accidentally levitated, and Leve chose Benthre to be immune to his esotera. It was decided during pre-gaming that all three know each other beforehand, because they’re working for the Order of Truth, as Seekers. They’ve been on a few low-danger missions and wild goose chases until this adventure. Their current assignment has taken them to the bleak landscape of Malevich, on the edge of The Black Range. They’re assignment is to look for a significant cache of numenera located somewhere around a hamlet called Manya. What sets Numenera apart from its peers is the setting. There is more story potential in the Ninth World than in any other setting I’ve ever read. Period. Any style, any genre, can tell its tale here, and skimming the gorgeous rulebook was enough to inspire me to write TWO adventures for the Wednesday one shot.
We’d been travelling for a long time to get to Manya, a little Hamlet on the edge of The Black Range. I swear, if our world needed an enema, Malevich is where they’d insert it. It’s dangerous, the people are dour, and the landscape is bleak. We’d been looking forward to beds and an ale when we got here, but no such luck. We were greeted by raggedy huts made of sticks, mud, and the bone and hide of the herdbeasts that sustain this tiny community. It seems that everyone in Manya is covered in at least one layer of grime, and they look at us with a mixture of fear, hostility, and… hope? As we get closer, everyone bolts into their huts, leaving a single grizzled old man in the centre of the hamlet, cooking skewered meat over a fire. Trying to talk to him was difficult, as the language of The Truth out here appears to have taken a life of its own… the consonants harsh, the vowels held too long, and the “R” appears to have taken on a soft roll. It was like they were trying to sing with a mouth full of mush. After spending a while trying to figure out how they grouped numbers here (some bizarre arbitrary method based on herds and sticks), I found out that over 40 people had gone missing in the mountain passes over the years.
The first challenge I threw at them was social. I gave it a difficulty level of 3 – Demanding. In Numenera, each level adds three to the target number that a player has to roll equal to or higher than. Ben’s player rolled a 19, which in Numenera is an extraordinary success that adds a minor positive effect to the intended effect. I decided that the hamlet threw them a hero’s welcome, built them a hut, and would provide guides. This got them around some of the mountain pass dangers I was going to throw at them later, but role-playing the party, and the discussions in the hut afterward was a lot of fun.
After the party last night (which saw us well fed, and introduced to the most potent alcohol I’d ever tasted), we slept surprisingly comfortably in the hut they built for us. The blanket-beds were so warm and soft, I almost didn’t want to get to work the next morning. Our young guides were already awake and prepared, and the whole town was out to see us off. Funny thing is, it felt… off. Leve put words to the feeling once we were outside of town, whispering it into my ear so our guides wouldn’t hear. He said that he felt like we were being honoured more like sacrifices, than as heroes. There was little to
I had them make a level 2 – Standard) difficulty check as they were leaving. Hawmett failed, Ben succeeded, and Leve rolled a 19. Assigning difficulty is easy. It’s not relative to the skill of the character, but based instead on how hard the task is for the average person. The skill of the character reduces the difficulty of the task. Numenera’s elegance allows a skilled Game Master to run an entire session from a simple difficulty chart, which is handy for a more improvisational GM like me.
The guides helped us climb a particularly treacherous mountain pass. We saw corpses along the way, probably some of the missing people that the elder spoke of. After about four hours, the pass became claustrophobically narrow. After another twenty minutes, the pass opened into a huge cylindrical cup of rock, the sides of it hundreds of feet high. Carved into the side of it was a huge archway, with writings carved around the edge that I wasn’t able to decipher. After bidding our guides farewell, we thoroughly checked the archway for traps and deadly esotera fields.
GM Hint – If you present your players with a mysterious archway, they will spend a half hour of real-time checking it. Try to figure out a way to get them moving without sounding suspicious, or they’ll spend another half hour making sure you’re not trying to murder their characters.
When we were sure it was safe to pass through the archway, we began walking down a huge corridor. It was readily apparent from the creaking and groaning that this structure wasn’t in good shape, and could come down around our ears at any moment. Worse, there were no lights, and it got dark as pitch as we journeyed farther down the hallway. I lit a torch to allow us to see. The eerie orange light of the torch flickered off of the walls, floor, and ceiling, and we could hear things skittering in the dark. Hawmett made an eldritch sign to ward us against evil, and said that the spirits in this place were restless, and possibly insane. They felt wrong.
All of a sudden, the floor of the hallway split in half length-wise, and retreated instantly into the walls. I would have fallen, if it weren’t for Hawmett’s quick reflexes.
Everyone failed a level 5 (challenging) Intellect check to detect the trap, then Ben’s player failed a demanding Speed check to avoid falling. Thankfully, Hawmett’s character succeeded a difficult speed check to catch him.
When he pulled me back from the abyss, the floor returned to its original position. Leve tested the floor with his foot, and found that when you step on the floor, it retreats, and when you remove your foot away from it, the floor returns. Hawmett had a brilliant idea to get past this trap: he would run as fast as he could, jump, activate his ability to levitate, and hopefully his momentum would carry him over the length of the pit. Like I said, useful.
Hawmett went back a ways, then came at the pit area at a dead sprint. He jumped just before what Leve called the “drop zone”. He floated through the air, and had more than enough momentum to carry him over the far side of the pit. The floor stayed in place, and as he gave us a thumbs-up, holes opened on the walls and started shooting beams of light at him. He pin wheeled clumsily in the air trying to avoid them, but through some sort of miracle, managed to avoid getting fried by one or more of the beams. As he passed near the end of the pit, the ports closed and the lasers stopped firing.
I couldn’t let them get by this trap so easily, so I utilized one of the best aspects of Numenera’s system: The GM Intrusion. To make this encounter more interesting, I gave Hawmett’s player 2 experience, one to keep and one to give away, which in this case went to Ben’s player. Doing this allows the GM to complicate the situation. What I chose to do, was modify the trap to detect beings attempting to float over the floor when it’s closed, and shoot lasers at them. This forced him to make a level 5 (challenging) speed check to avoid taking 6 damage. Since he didn’t have zero-g training, the check wasn’t able to be reduced. He rolled a 16, allowing him to avoid being shot.
Well. That was less than ideal.
I had an idea this time. Leve would use his foot to hold open the pit, while I climbed past the trap on the wall. Halfway across the pit, everything seemed to be going well. While the floor was open, the beam ports stayed closed.
And that’s when a piece of the wall gave way, and I fell…
Ben’s player failed his speed check, even while it was reduced a step by the climbing skill that he chose to use his Flex Skill ability on. He gave me the experience point that Hawmett’s player just gave him, and failed the roll again…
To be continued…