Review: Elizabethan Adventures

TL/DR: Great resource, kludgy system

Elizabethan Adventures is a roleplaying game set in 16th century England. This is a great and somewhat underserved period for gaming. Adventure abounds: court intrigue, the Spanish threat, friction on the Scottish border, exploration of the New World and piracy are all possible campaign types. The game is written by Matthew Walhead and it is truly  a labor of love. There are two volumes to the game: the Player’s Book containing the basic game rules and character generation and the Gamemaster’s Book which describes the world, ships, travel and so forth. The game system appears to derive from the Basic Roleplaying System (BRP) that Chaosium developed for Runequest and Call of Cthulhu.

I have the hard cover volumes from DriveThruRPG. The covers are simple and elegant. The interiors are full color. Illustrations are mainly pictures (I’m pretty sure they are culled from movie stills), period engravings and some really nice line drawings of weapons and ships. These are print on demand books, so you’ll need to take care on the binding. I’m really glad the author chose to spilt the books into two volumes for this reason. Overall, the quality looks good.

The Player’s Book begins with a short introduction and then jumps into Character Creation. This is very much a “traditional roleplaying game”, but it does have a bit of a twist. All players must come up with a concept of a “Hidden Character”. What this really boils down to, is that every player in the game has some sort of secret – unknown to the other players – that may put them at odds with their fellow adventurers from time to time. It’s a cool idea and will engender a healthy level of paranoia amongst your players. Next, players choose gender, social class (called Social Estate) and roll or use a point-allocation system to determine attributes. There are ten attributes in the game: Agility, Appearance, Charisma, Confidence, Constitution, Instinct, Intelligence, Memory, Quickness and Strength. The sheer number of attributes was my immediate clue that the author was a “splitter” rather than a “lumper” when it came to game design. Secondary attributes such as Fate Points (a luck mechanism), Hit Points and Damage Bonus come next. After that the player can choose from a short list of Special Traits – basically advantages. Finally, the player chooses one or more Professions for his character to determine the skills he begins play with. The section wraps up with determining other character traits (age, name, etc.) and a discussion on how the experience system works.

The next chapter is Professions. There are 45 pages devoted to the professions available to characters; serious overkill. I guess somebody, somewhere may wish to write up a dairymaid or a cheesemonger… I’ll be honest. I skimmed over most of this section, only spending time reading the more adventurous or interesting careers. There are some really cool pieces of information in this section. For example, I knew that barbers and surgeons were closely related in the middle ages. I didn’t know that many barbers ran bath houses and effectively doubled as pimps.

The next chapter is devoted to skills. It begins with a discussion of the game system. Elizabethan Adventures uses 1D20 for the primary die to resolve tasks. The player attempts to roll below their skill level (there are the usual modifiers and such) to see if they succeed at a task. There are rules for critical success and failure. The game system will feel very familiar to anyone who’s played BRP; it basically replaces the percentile roll with 1D20. Next we’re onto an exhaustive list of skills. Combat skills, in particular, have a crazy number of combinations. You don’t choose weapon skills (like Rapier), but rather a fighting style. All fine and good, until you see the list: Broadsword & Broadsword, Broadsword & Cloak, Broadsword & Dagger, Broadsword & Shield. Now repeat, replacing Rapier for Broadsword in the previous sentence… There are a large number of skills for crafting, social and other areas. I’ve gotten to the point in my gaming life where detailed lists of skills just turn me off. I like like skills that have a broad application, rather than specializations.

Combat is the focus of the next chapter. I found the Combat Matrix a little tricky to read at first. It is similar to Legend from Mongoose – an implementation of BRP that I never cared for. All weapons have damage for slash, thrust or bashing attacks. There didn’t seem to be an advantage to using any mode over the other, so I am not sure why a player would ever choose a lesser damage attack. Parrying is also a little complex. Each weapon has a decimal multiplier that you apply to the character’s skill to determine his chance to parry. It’s similar to GURPS, but varies by weapon. I like the idea, but I am not a big fan of how it is implemented. Overall, I think combat would be slow.

The final chapter in the Player’s Book is on Injury & Health. The game has hit locations and a major wound system. Combat looks like it would be pretty deadly and in a world where there is no magical healing your character can expect to be laid up for some time after a skirmish – if he doesn’t die from infection that is… Other sources of damage such as falling and poison are detailed in this chapter. It is rounded out with how to recover damage from the quackery that passes for medicine in the sixteenth century.

The Player’s Book ends with a series of tables for character creation, weights and measures, weapon statistics and so forth. It’s handy to have all this in one place so the GM doesn’t need to flip around chapters to find it.

The Gamemaster’s Book begins with a chapter on – wait for it – Gamemastering. The author assumes that you are not purchasing this game as your first foray into roleplay, so it is relatively brief. It has information on how to motivate your party and keep them “on task” with good group goals during the session. One of the things that I liked was how the author encouraged the GM to consider the edges of the world as an area where more fantastical things could happen. For example, the kingdom of Prester John may lie somewhere beyond Tartary and King Solon’s Mines are surely hidden somewhere in deepest Africa.

The next chapter focuses on the Game World. The author discusses the various Social Estates and religions of the time. Next, he launches into Witchcraft. The GM is free to allow more otherworldly aspects in their game. Witchcraft and religion can be more than just mummery for those who believe. A note for the faint of heart, Witchcraft is considered the worship of Satan in this game – no nature-worship here. An overview of the world comes next. I really enjoyed this section and honestly learned a lot of history while perusing it. Transportation and travel speed, money and prices and a small bestiary round out the chapter.

Ships & Sailing is the next chapter. This is the time of the Sea Dogs. Hawkins, Raleigh, Drake and many others were commissioned as privateers and preyed on Spanish shipping mercilessly. There are rules for building and outfitting a ship, navigation and combat.

London is the focus of the next chapter. There are period maps of the entire city along with a gazetteer of many of the most famous and interesting locations. Anyone who wishes to run a game in London in this time period would be well-served to pick up this book. Quite frankly, I felt it was the best part of the whole game. The author could easily cut this out of the GM book and sell it as a systemless setting guide. And maybe he’s done it… There is a PDF of the London Map available for sale; I am not sure if it contains the gazetteer.

The final chapter is an introductory adventure. The characters spend a night at a coaching inn and where all sorts of skulldrudgery takes place. I got a strong “Rough Night at the Three Feathers” vibe from this adventure.

I’ve long noodled over running a game set in this time period. I’ve read a fair amount of history and historical fiction set in this time period. The author really knows his stuff! I’d highly recommend this game as a resource. I’m less sold on the system itself. This is really a matter of my own tastes. It is built on BRP so I know it is going to work. It’s just a lot crunchier than I like now-a-days. If I were to start a game in this period, I’d start with FGU’s Flashing Blades and tweak appropriately.

Elizabethan Adventures is available at DriveThruRPG.

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Review: Shotguns and Sorcery

TL/DR: It’s good, but don’t buy yet…

Shotguns and Sorcery the Roleplaying Game is based on the fantasy-noir novels from Matt Forbeck. Mr. Forbeck is credited as the lead writer on the game, while Robert Schwalb (of Shadow of the Demon Lord fame) has written the rules. The game was kickstarted in November 2014 with a delivery date of December 2015. I got my copy a few months ago and finally read through it. Was it worth the wait? Nope. Is it any good? Yes.

If you are not aware of Forbeck’s stories, the Shotguns and Sorcery universe is a bash of the fantasy and detective-noir genres. The author has created a world where only one city still exists. The rest of the continent is overrun by hordes of zombies. The action takes place in a crowded metropolis. Various fantasy races all occupy this city and there is a pretty strict class system with Elves at the top, Goblins at the bottom and humans somewhere in the middle.

Shotguns and Sorcery is a 270+ page hardback, with a nice matte-finished cover. The interior is full color, non-glossy paper. The illustrations are nice; kind of a comic book style. The artist, Jeremy Mohler (who is also the creator of the kickstarter), farmed out some of the coloring of his work to other artists. It shows. Many images are a lot “flatter” than others. The book itself looks ok. I don’t think the binding will put up with much abuse at the game table. It feels like the kind of product I’d get from a print on demand company.

The books is divided into seven “parts”, each composed of one or more chapters, and an appendix. I’m going to sum up some of the “parts” quickly. Part 1: Getting Started, is the introduction most role playing games start with. Part 3: Playing the Game, is pretty much a cut-and-paste of the Cypher System rules. Part 7: The Game Master, offers advice on how to run the game; again similar to what many RPGs do. The appendix has a character sheet and the backer list from the Kickstarter. I’ll go into a little more detail on the other parts since they are really where the “new stuff” is located.

Part 2: Character Creation is composed of five chapters and the layout and contents should be familiar to anyone who has played a Cypher System game. Characters in Shotguns and Sorcery follow the “I am a (descriptor), (type) who (focus)” model, but also adds “race” to the mix. Race does add some new cruft to the system. It determines the character’s starting stat pools and sometimes gives them a mechanical benefit akin to a descriptor. The races outlined are dwarf, elf, halfling, human and orc. I do wish the author could have added gnomes, goblins and a few other races that inhabit Dragon City instead of punting it to the GM. Type is the next chapter. Players may choose from Freelance (thief/fighter/mage), Veteran (warrior) and Wizard (magic user). I got a strong Jack, Glaive, Nano feel from the types, but overall I think they work with the game. I do wish they’d done a full-blown thief-type instead of rolling it into the Freelance. Chapters six and seven describe the Descriptor and Focus. They look like they were pulled or reskinned from the Cypher System (version one) rulebook. Finally, chapter eight describes equipment. This chapter looked like a standard list of medieval adventuring gear with firearms tacked on. Now, I haven’t read all of the stories in this universe, but from the couple I did read I got a pretty strong 1930’s vibe for technology. Yeah, magic replaces a lot of it – glow globes instead of electric lights and flying carpets instead of cars, but still…

Part 4: Setting outlines the Dragon City, the many organizations and peoples in it. It also expands upon the world in general. As it turns out, there are far away kingdoms that have not been overrun by a horde of zombies!

Part 5: Creatures and Characters, is chock full of monsters. This is a pretty comprehensive “monster manual” for any fantasy game using the Cypher System. It’s something we really haven’t gotten in any published product to date and I think it’d be very useful to any GM who wanted to run D&D under these rules.

Part 6: Magic Items, has a good 10 pages of interesting magical items. Cyphers exist in Shotguns and Sorcery: they are one-use magic items like potions or scrolls. I really liked how some of the magical items were implemented in the game. You can actually get gear that doesn’t have an exhaustion rate to worry about. Again, this is all useful information for any GM who wants to run a more standard fantasy campaign using Cypher System.

If you’ve read through the Zaibatsu game posts, you’ll see a couple jabs at the Kickstarter campaign. I think Mohler went into this with the best of intentions, but fumbled the execution. I was sure I’d never see the book. By the time I got my copy, the excitement had worn off. I doubt I’ll ever run this, but I can mine it for ideas.

I really want to recommend this game, but won’t. Reason: The non-US backers are still waiting for their hard copies. Don’t give this guy your money until he squares up with the folks who helped fund this game.

Review: Lemurian Chronicles

TL/DR: Buy it now, before the machinations of the Red Druids sink fair Lemuria beneath the waves!

I am a big fan of Barbarians of Lemuria. I backed the kickstarter for the Mythic edition and have run nearly every published adventure for my gaming group. BoL is a great game to break out when another GM needs a break and you don’t feel like playing a board game. I only wish it had more adventures… Well, I guess my prayers to Morgazzon have finally been answered by the good folks at Ludospherik!

The book begins with some interesting background information on the world of Lemuria. Five pages are devoted to the discussion of the calendar of Sartarla, the holidays and a few adventure seeds. It’s little tidbits of information like this that can really make a game come to life.

The next sixteen pages are devoted to the Khanate, that stretch of plains lying to the east of Valgard. Rules are provided for players that wish to create heroes from this region. The cities, wonders and creatures that inhabit the lands are sketched out as well. The chapter ends with more adventure seeds.

Finally, we get five fully detailed adventures (about 100 pages of material) that will test the mettle of the stoutest hero. The adventures take the characters all over Lemurian, and even beyond!

I think “Bored to Death” may be the hardest one to run. It requires the GM to be “on it” in order to keep the action moving along, but not let the characters figure out who is responsible too soon. I really think a timeline of events would help me run this adventure more effectively.

“The Three Chests” is going to make a great “one-shot” adventure. The players portray Kalukan slave-warriors of the Witch Queen. It’s an interesting adventure with a cool twist. Pre-generated characters are provided for the players, and I would probably stick with them for the adventure. I do have a Kalukan player in my current game and this might be an interesting adventure to have him go on though…

I purchased the standard, hard cover book. The binding looks pretty sturdy. The interior artwork is great. I didn’t notice a lot of typos. This is a solid translation from French by someone who clearly knows the game system. Kudos to Jeffrey Probst to his work on this book!

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I highly recommend this book. Lemurian Chronicles is available from DriveThruRPG.com

Deepest, Darkest Eden

TL/DR: It’s really good!

I, Filbanto, shall type with my left hand…

I love the Hyperborean cycle tales. Set in the dim reaches of the past, in a land that faces destruction by an advancing sheet of glacial ice – I guess it ticks all the boxes of what interested me in college (I dual majored in Archaelogy and Geology).

Deepest Darkest Eden is a collection of short stories and poems set in the proto-continent envisioned by Clark Ashton Smith. As with most anthologies there are some tales that really struck a chord with me and others that (pardon the pun) left me cold.

My favorite tale was “Daughter of the Elk Goddess” by John R. Fultz. This was a great adventure that really channelled the ‘sword and sorcery’ tales of the old pulps. Atanequ could certainly hold his own against Kull or Elak if push came to shove. I shan’t spoil the ending of the tale, but anyone who appreciates Smith’s work will certainly chuckle at it.

“To Walk Night…Alone…” by Joseph S. Pulver Jr. was, quite frankly, a slog to get through. Being the second story in the anthology, I started to despair that I’d bought a real stinker. I think I know what the author was trying to accomplish with this style of writing, but it just didn’t work for me.

Overall, I’d recommend the anthology for lovers of Smith’s works. Deepest Darkest Eden is available at Amazon.com.

Zothique via Ran Cartwright

TL/DR: They’re ok.

Every now and again I think about how cool it’d be to run a game set in Zothique. I’ll dig out my Clark Ashton Smith books and read through the stories looking for inspiration. When the bug hit me this time, I figured “surely somebody has written up a story since the Toad God took old C.A. Smith to his bosom”. I stumbled across a novel and two collections of short stories written by Ran Cartwright: The DarkeningSorceries Gnydron, and Sorceries Zothique. Technically, the first two, being set in Gnydron, predate Zothique, but what’s 850,000 years when we’re peering a billion years into our future.

I didn’t go into these books with high expectations. Smith had a way with words that few authors can capture. Cartwright has some interesting stories in these collections, but none of them capture the black humor you get in a C.A. Smith story. In fact – and I guess I should insert a spoiler alert here – most of the stories just end in a bloody mess. I almost felt like the author couldn’t figure out a way to end the tale, so he just killed off all his characters to wrap things up.

Out of the three books, I think The Darkening was the best. The collections of short stories can be mined for adventure ideas for games like Barbarians of Lemuria or Conan, but beware of a TPK.

As for gaming in Zothique, G.R. Hager has written up guidelines for D20. I’d likely use Barbarians of Lemuria.

Numenera 2.1: Line of Descent

Uncle,

It’s me Maga, again. I’m tellin’ Jenny what to write on this letter to you. He says the paper’s too wet and it’s prob’ly gonna come apart when he scratches on it, but it’s all I got. The paper was in my pack, brung here from Keford. And the pack was on my back when we went down under the ocean to the bottom where the water ran out and there was land again.

The last I told you, we was in a dark cave where some bugs lived. Well, the bugs stopped comin’ and we rested and I smoked a fag. Then we left the cave and the town where all the people got stolen. Then we left to go back to Keford to see the Aeon Priestess lady and the pirate king. What? Oh, Jenny says he’s Ayderman the Masturstrate.

So then, we was on the road riding them big ole critters some more for a long time and we saw some of them mad-faced glaives we seen before, heading back into Navarene. One of them told us their old leader, Dilron, and the other bad ones stayed over in Ghan to go fuck with the woodmen some more. Then we was getting’ near Keford and Pyx, the little owl that Ildrak wears on his shoulder, went up real high and said he saw some men hidin’ up a ways behind a big rock. One of them men ain’t no man, just that mutie bastard called Octy. I said, “It’s gotta go, ‘fore he fouls the gene pool.” That’s what Mama always said anyways, “Maga we’re just lucky you’re one of a kind, so, see… it’s your duty to not let the gene pool get any worse.” Not sure what she meant, ‘cept to kill them muties.

So, then, Ildrak sneaks way, way around the back of them men hiding over there, sneaky bastard, and then he uses this crazy cypher to stick his hand way, way across the empty field and then he dropped a bomb right in their laps and it blows up real good. Them men and Dilron and and Octy are all blowed up and then me and you, what? It’s Jemmy? Whatever, Jenny. And me and Jenny and Dudley start riding them critters real fast at the rocks, and them men is scared and running away, so we start fighting them, and I shoot down Octy pretty quick ‘cuz he was a mutie pussy. But Dudley’s having a bad time with Dilron, and Dudley is bleedin’ real bad and fighting a couple them other men too. Ildrak is shooting some beam gun from the behind the rocks, ‘cept I don’t think he knew how to work it proper and then he broke it. So me and Jenny help Dudley out and we finally knock Dilron’s men down and Jenny shoots Dilron with that dart gun he sewed on his arm and Dilron ain’t dead, but can’t move, but then I whacked him dead ‘cuz he was a mutie-lover.. Them glaives ain’t got nothing valuable ‘cept Dilron has some nice armor, but then we leave it’ cuz if you’re gonna wear it, people will think you are a mutie-lover.

So at Keford, the Aeon lady gives us stuff so we can go to the bottom of the ocean and find them metal men that has been stealin’ everyone. It’s a mask for breathing and some pills that keep us from being crushed like a bug by all that water on top of us. We go out on a boat with some of Ayderman’s men and then we lower the anchor chain. Then like two hours later it lands and we go down in the water with our masks and stuff. Everyone else wears some suit to keep them warm. Me, I like cold water so I go bare chested like Pa showed me. “Keep divin, son,” he’d say, “ dive a little deeper next time, son, and try goin’  real deep in one of them caves where them harrier-sharks live, pretty sure there’s treasure.”

We finally touch the bottom of the ocean and it is dark down there. We followed Jenny’s flesh compass and some other thing Dudley was carryin’ that told us where the metal men was, and they was pointin’ different ways, so we din’t follow any of them and then found a shimmery place in the water where it was real warm in there and I could breathe real good, better than I ever did up on the land. So we followed along until we come to a door in a blue-metal building. We went in and found another inside room still full of water with a big window of another room with air in it. We went up a ladder into that room and then took off our masks and such, and my smokes was still dry so I had a fag. Then Ildrak made a bunch a noise opening a door and a metal man came after us all. I don’t know why back home in Hyrem, we kill’t like two of them metal men apiece, but this one was real tough and I kept slippin on the wet floor, and ‘fore I know it Ildrak is frozen by the metal man’s dart, and then ‘fore I know it I am frozen by another dart. And Jenny and Dudley gotta kill that robot themselves. And they do and then they wait a long time I still can’t do nothin’ ‘cept move my eye a little. Then they got bored and they open another door and I hear a big long fight and it sounds mostly like Jenny beating on a metal man with a boat-hook. Then it’s real quiet. Then they come drag us frozen ones into a big room and now I can sit up and I look over and there’s Julletine, my cousin’s brother’s wife, lookin’ all pale and sickly. She told us she’s the last from Hyrem and everyone else been pumped full of stuff from tubes by the metal men and shoved through into some kinda doorway, ‘cept not like a normal doorway.

Uncle, we’re kinda fucked again, and I wish you was here with us. We’re all beat up and Ildrak can move his big toe only. And now somehow we gotta figure out about that weird doorway and get ourselves and Julletine outta the bottom of the ocean. And maybe along the way, find my other uncle’s sister and my uncle’s sister’s daughter, too.

Zaibatsu: The Last Square

“Fuck Kozo. How did I let you ass-hats talk me into coming to this shithole?”

Suko Guro took a drag from his Golden Bat cigarette while scanning the interior of The Osaka Corral. The nightclub, done up in an American old west theme, is crowded and smoky. Holographic images of ancient Hollywood actors like Clint Eastwood and John Wayne mingle with patrons dressed as cowpokes and dancehall girls. Over on the karaoke stage, a man wearing a bowler is mangling an old Marty Robbins song.

Toshiro ambles over to the table. He’s in full cowboy mode: spurs, chaps, vest, even a ten-gallon hat perched on his head and a plug of chewing tobacco in his mouth. He spits out a stream of brown juice, striking the side of the spittoon a meter away.

“I’m up next.” He says wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.

“How’d ya manage that?” Kozo asks.

“Told that fucker running the soundboard I was going to shove a grenade up his ass if he didn’t let me jump the queue.”

“One little kiss, then Felina good-bye…” Echoes weakly through the speakers. Desultory applause breaks out.

“Gotta go pardners.” Toshiro grins. He swaggers over to the stage, grabs the microphone from the grinning singer, then gives him a firm shove.

“Now y’all gonna hear a song I wrote myself.” He says in a terrible western accent.

I’m down to my very last square
Oh, my poor derriere
I think I’m gonna cry
’cause it’s only single ply
And there ain’t no more TP anywhere

Now I’m just an ordinary man
Spending some time on the can
Here is the scoop
Just had a juicy poop
And I don’t want to get it on my hand

Oh why did I eat at Taco Bell?
Guess it’s ’cause the food they serve is swell
I polished off my order
Got the runs at the border
Now it feels like my colon is in hell

Well I’m almost done on the pot
And truly, I gave it all I got
I’m headin’ for the shower
Scrub my behind for an hour
I hope this won’t happen a lot

Now I’m down to my very last square
And I know that you really don’t care
But if you have a poo
Hope it don’t happen to you
Or at least you have a change of underwear

Numenera 2: The Journey Begins

I’ve not written this much in ages and my fingers already hurt from penning Maga’s letter. If I hadn’t told him we were nearly out of paper, I think he’d have rambled on more… Anyhow, back to my tale:

Magistrate Neomal told us to travel to Keyford for aid. Aydermen, the magistrate of that place could send  food and aid to our village as well as word to the King of Ghan. Apparently, Dudley had travelled to Keyford several years ago and knew this man. Jemmy’s mother told us to find an Aeon priestess named Terishini. She thought this woman might be able to shed some light on the automata that had attacked our village. We found a boat that had survived the attack and spent the remainder of the day repairing and stocking it. Keyford was a good day and a half away and the trip was uneventful.

Keyford is a rough and tumble place. Most of the inhabitants make their living harvesting lumber from the Westwood. There is a sizable number of merchant sailors in town as well. Brawls are common as the lumbermen and seafarers let off steam. We landed our craft at the docks, and began making our way to the town proper, when we spied a group of men pushing a cart full of weapons, household goods and other objects. They were led by an obvious mutant, and Maga was immediately spoiling for a fight. Dudley and I went to speak to the men and while engaged in conversation, I noticed an insectoid limb with the same type of biological dart projector we had seen attached to the automata that had invaded our village.

We pressed the men for more information on where they had found that dart projector. Their leader, who was becoming increasingly belligerent spat out Isolon, a village in Navarene, a neighboring realm, and then turned and struck one of the men I was conversing with. Dudley immediately struck him back. With a snarl, the man pulled out a pick and prepared to attack. Suddenly, a crossbow bolt struck him in the chest! Maga reloaded his weapon, while the mutant swung at Dudley, but seeing he was outclassed the man turned and fled. Maga chased him down and killed him! Jemmy and I were stunned at how quickly things escalated.

Once they had calmed down, the other men gave as a little more information. Apparently, Isolon had been attacked. A sole survivor had made her way to Bodrov and told her story. These men thought to loot the village and sell the plunder in Keyford where they were unlikely to be questioned. The men seemed somewhat relieved that their former leader was no more. We let them keep their loot and made our way to Keyford.

Our first stop was to see the Aeon priestess. Terishini was cordial, but gave us no immediate answers. She promised to contact members of her order for more information and encouraged us to investigate the village of Isolon to see if we could discover any more clues.

We next went to see Aydermen. He was very concerned and dispatched people to help the survivors of our village. He agreed that we should investigate Isolon since the incident seemed related to the attack on our home. He outfitted us with mounts and provisions from the journey and set us up in an inn for the night.

In the common room of the inn, we heard several rumors. One was a tale of an old crone from the Westwood who rails that something will emerge from that benighted forest and sweep the surrounding kingdoms away. More importantly, we also heard that a small town north of Harmuth was attacked in a manner similar to Isolon and our home.

Isolon was a couple of days travel from Keyford. Travelling by Aneen is a most unpleasant experience, the gait of the creature takes some getting used to. Other than queasy stomachs and saddle sores, we encountered no troubles on our first day. On the second day, we met a troop of thirty or more warriors from Bodrov, led by a man named Dilron.

Dilron was travelling into Ghan on a mission of revenge. The survivor from Isolon had said that woodsmen had attacked her home. We attempted to reason with him, arguing that we had evidence to the contrary and the attack on our village bore such striking similarity to the one on Isolon that some other force must be at work. The man’s mind was made up, and we could not engage such a force of men, so we stood aside. I sent Pyx back to Keystone with a message for Aydermen, warning him that a war party was entering his territory.

We continued to Isolon finding it deserted and looted. There were signs of a struggle and some odd-colored blood in places. We found a trail of blood that led out of the village, to the west. Eventually, we found a crater that had been marked off by some kind of warning totems setup by the locals. We explored the crater and Maga stumbled into an underground chamber.

It was literally a web of passages beneath the ground. Each room seemed to have a couple passages going down and a couple going up. As we explored the place, we were attacked by an insect-like being. It created realistic illusions and attacked with some sort of mental energy. I was sorely wounded in the ensuing fight. The insect arm we recovered in Keystone obviously came from one of these beings. We explored the place, eventually defeating a number of these creatures and finally found ourselves in a chamber with an underground river. Bodies of these insect-beings were piled in this chamber. The right arms of the creatures had been severed and they looked as though they had been “cooked” from the inside out.

This is another piece of a puzzle, but we still have no clear picture of what is happening. We theorize that these creatures were some unwitting or unwilling pawn of whatever created those biological dart throwers. I am a little concerned about Jemmy, who took it upon himself to graft one of those things onto his arm…

Numenera 1.1 Make the 9th World Great Again

Ok, Ildrak, I want you to write everything I say right there on that paper, just like I say it. Ok? Ok.

No, this letter ain’t for my dad, since he don’t read. Plus, he don’t care too much for me, truth told. It’s for my uncle. The one who run off to be an Angulan Knight. You heard that story before, right Ildrak?

Ok here goes.

Uncle,

It’s me, Maga telling you this. I know you been gone from Hyrem for a long, long time, and I wouldn’t ever know you if you were standing right in front of me, but Mama always told me you was a good man who knew his letters, so maybe one day I can find you and give this to you to read. Plus you’re a man who hates them muties and freaks just like I do. This here is the story of what’s been happening to us in Hyrem. And it ain’t good.

First thing, me and some of those boys I grow’d up with turned eighteen this Spring, and it was time for us to put on our fancy robes and get anointed, is that how you say it? as full adults. So Dudley shows up for the dunking wearing a robe so short his ass was half-hanging out, on account that you told him it was supposed to be real short for climbing up all those steps. No, you, Ildrak, you told him that. Oh, yeah, I’m supposed to be telling this story to my uncle. So we’re made to climb all the way, way up there to the top of the cliffs and Dudley’s like, here Maga, I’ll carry you up there on my back, on account you look kinda sickly today, and I’m like, screw you, short robe, I’ll walk my own ass up there. Then Jenny and me and Dudley and Dudley’s pa, who is the Masturstrate, what? Oh, Magistrate, and you, I mean Ildrak, march our asses up the top of the mountain. I smoked like four or five fags on the way, it took so long to climb it. And then once we’re up there Dudley’s pa says get naked and get in the water with me, and I’m like, why don’t you guys go first. So, you…I mean Ildrak, and Dudley get dunked and come out all shiny and wet and adult. Then, no shit, right as I’m dropping trou, everyone’s like yelling that the village is on fire and takes off running back down the trail, and I’m like no freaking way I’m coming up here again, so I dunk my own self. Jenny forgets and runs down the mountain.

Anyway, we get down to the village and everything is on fire and the people are all stolen away, except a couple who is fighting these metal mechanical men, and I’m like, ain’t that just typical, evil foreigners come over to our land and fuck everything up and steal everyone. And, Uncle, I’m like, I can take a whack at these guys, ‘cuz I know how to fight, but I gotta go back to pa’s and my house and get some gear. So then me and Jenny go and whack on these metal foreigners for a while. And they’re pretty tough. But we kill’t one and then Jenny starts taking parts off it saying they’re valuable. So then, we’re fighting another metal man, and we whack it down, and Jenny goes off to help his ma, who you, I mean Ildrak, told him was hurt bad, and I’m like I’m gonna get some valuable stuff off this metal man too, and then like, the robot man wasn’t all the way dead or something, ‘cuz he blew me up a little and it made my ears bleed.

So then we find….Ildrak, see I got it right, with Dudley and and Jenny and Dudleys’ dad, and Jenny’s ma, Sari, and they all saw these metal foreigners taking all the people in these bags down under the sea down by the fishing boats, and now everyone is gone. Except us. So Sari says we gotta go to Keford to tell the Aeon Priestess about this, and I’m like no way, I hate the big city and it’s a nest of freaks and mutants there, and Mama always said don’t trust big city folk. Dudley says, no they’re just people like everywhere else, and I’m like, whatever, short robe.

So we sailed a couple days down to Keford, and hop off the boat. And I shit you not, the very first person we see is a fucking mutie with just one eye and his nose all sideways on his face! Regular folk, just like us, my ass! And this mutie is leading a bunch a regular pussy looking guys pulling a cart full of junk. And I’m like I’m gonna kill this mutie scum, so I load up my crossbow, but Dudley is like, I’ll handle this, and he’s talking to the stinking mutie and trying to convince him to tell us stuff, and go figure the mutie tells him to go fuck himself, and then all of a sudden Dudley’s fighting the mutie, and I plug him, what? no the mutie, not Dudley, I plug him with my crossbow and they’re still fighting away and I plug him again real good and he’s trying to limp away, and I follow after him and reload, and then I’m like, are all the people in Keford freaks and mutants and mutie-lovers and are they gonna lock me up for killing this mutie? ‘cuz I’m not sure I want to be locked up right when I turned into an adult, and I see some guards up there by the town wall kinda watchin’ what’s going on. But then I kill’t him anyway, stinking mutie.

So the mutie and his gang had came through some town called Isobar, or some foreign name like that and looted a town totally empty of people, just like Hyrem was empty, so maybe we gotta go there to see what’s going on.

Then, uncle, we met the Aeon Priestess lady, and she was real nice, and she liked our robot parts we brung her, then we went to talk to the King of Keford, what? Ok, the Magistrate. He talked funny but, no shit, he had a pin on that was like two crossed cutlasses on a red and blue shield, and I think it was Angulan Knight pin. So I liked him. Then he let us go to the tavern and we talked to some other people with funny accents, but I liked them anyway, and they told me about another town up by Harmuth that got totally stolen away too. So there’s lots of people getting stolen away by foreigners, metal men, and probably mutants, all around the country. And that ain’t good.

So Uncle, then we had to ride on these tall, tall critters with two legs, for ever and ever and I was so sick in my gut. Probably din’t help the King, I mean Magistrate, let us drink as much as we wanted the night before. We were riding to Isobar to see for ourselves what happened there, ‘cuz Galvan knows that mutie I kill’t was lying to us. Then we crossed into another country, Navarene, I think it’s called? It looked just the same as Ghan, truth be told. And then later, there was this huge posse of glaives on the road and they looked really mad, and they were heading to cross back over to Ghan to go fuck up the woodmen who they said stole all their people. I was just about to say yeah, let’s go fuck up those woodmen, when I see one of that posse has like octopus tentacles instead of arms, and my head nearly exploded, ‘cuz this posse is a bunch of mutie-lovers! And it was all I could do to keep from starting it up with that mutie. Their boss was called Dillron, and he was a total Dillron.

Then we got to Isobar and like, everyone is gone, just like back in Hyrem. But we found a trail of yellow blood, like from the insect arm that the dead mutie had. Oh, I never told you about that before. Anyway, the trail lead to a big crater in the ground with some old markers sayin’ don’t go down there or you will die, and so we went down there. And then I fell down into a hole in the ground I din’t see, and it was dark and things crawling on me, and then everyone came down on a rope which was better than falling. Then there’s tunnels. Lots and lots of tunnels and rooms going down and down. And then everyone’s acting weird and seeing shit that ain’t there. And THEN there’s a fucking seven foot tall cockroach. And so we’re shooting at it and…Ildrak is looking pretty messed up, like that cockroach had been using his brain for a punchin’ bag. We kill’t the roach and keep going down and down, then fight another roach-thing, who makes Ildrak run after his invisible girlfriend. We’re totally lost. We’re all beat up. I’m lost, but somehow Jenny knows right where we are, and we gotta keep going down. Then another roach-thing is just about to feel my club in his face, when he sends me to a bad, bad place. I’m all alone in a cavern and there’s muties everywhere, and they’re all poking me and laughing at me and calling me names. Uncle, it was a madhouse down in those tunnels. But my buddies musta kill’t that bug, because I came back.

But sure enough, we found the underground ocean-river flowin’ through the cave and Jenny’s flesh compass was workin’ good. What? Oh, I better explain more. The compass don’t find flesh. It’s like made of flesh and it finds north, but only when it’s near salt. And that ocean-river was salty, alright. Right beside the ocean-river is a pile of those insect people, all with one arm hacked off. We all are guessin’ that whoever is stealin’ folks everywhere, took their arms to get the dart guns attached to them. Or somethin’ like that.

Uncle, Ildrak is telling me that he’s almost out of paper and next time I gotta be shorter with my story. It’s hard when everything is so fucked and don’t make any sense. So for now, I’ll roll a fag and we’ll rest up and get outta this dark place and go find who done all this crazy shit. And I’ll say, talk to you later. Your nephew, Maga.

Numenera 1: Attack from the Depths

My name is Ildrak. I’ve never kept a journal before, but I feel I must have some sort of record, to let Anell know that I desperately tried to save her.

I grew up in Hyrem, a small fishing village on the western shore of the Ryness Bay. I was a foundling. My adopted Father told me a story of how a beautiful woman beckoned to him to the eastern shore of the bay while he was out fishing. He must have been disappointed to find her gone when he drew his boat to shore and only a synth bassinet with myself and a fledgling owl (whose name is Pyx) inside. I’ll credit him that he didn’t leave me there to die. He brought me back to his home and added me to his already large family.

I’ve never fit in. I was always “the foundling” to the other villagers. I had no interest in fishing and while I do feel a pull towards the Westwood forest where I was found, the woodsmen would never take a skinny lad to harvest lumber. I only connected with one soul in the village, my dear Anell. A restless soul, like myself, she dreamed of leaving Hyrem and finding her way in the wider world. I’ve a certain talent for illusion and we hoped to make a name in Qi or some other city as stage magicians.

As is tradition in our village, when a child reaches their eighteenth year, they undergo a ritual passage into adulthood. It is no great ordeal – a baptism by the magistrate is all – but the family and friends of the person usually gift them with a few shins or other goods to help them start a household. Anell and I agreed to wait until I had undergone the rite, collected my presents and then slip off into the night while the rest of the village celebrated. Oh, how I wish we’d not waited…

I was to undergo the rite with three other youths. Maga, a sickly warrior obsessed was mutants. Jemmy, son of the village healer and an explorer at heart. And finally Dudley, the magistrate’s popular and well-loved son. (He is perhaps the opposite of me in every respect.) The ritual is held atop a hill, some distance from town. I’d been dunked and Dudley had just had his bath when we noticed smoke billowing up from the town below.

Now, I have a peculiar ability in that I can share the senses of a willing creature, so I sent Pyx aloft to see what was amiss. The village was under attack! Lances of energy set buildings alight. We didn’t tarry, but hurried back to the village as quickly as we could. By the time we arrived, the battle was nearly at an end.

We crept into the flaming ruins, searching for survivors. Maga and Jemmy went to find weapons. Dudley spied a seven-foot tall automaton attacking a group of villagers and strode off to confront it, hurling bolts of energy as went. I had only one thought in mind: “Find Anell and get her to safety.”

While my companions sought conflict, I slipped through the village in search of Anell. As luck would have it, one of the automatons discovered me. I tried to avoid it using my illusions, but it was most persistent. Finally, I ducked around a corner, ran straight into the magistrate and fell flat on my back. The magistrate pulled a cypher from under his coat and made to attack the thing, but was felled by a paralyzing dart. I had concealed myself behind a rain barrel as this exchange took place and the automaton abandoned his search for me. Snatching up the magistrate, it bore him down to the beach. As I recovered the cypher, I saw the magistrate placed into some sort of huge sack. A few other sacks were also on the beach and I watched in fascination as another automata dragged one of the sacks into the depths of the bay!

Making my way through the village, I discovered our healer Sali in a pool of blood. She was delirious, but I was able to staunch the bleeding and promised her I would look for her son Jemmy. A short time later, I stumbled across my young foster brother Ulrie. He told me that the automatons had taken many of the villagers prisoner, encasing them in some strange sacks and dragging them below the waves. I told him to look after Sali while I went in search of her son.

I found him and Maga engaging an automata but a short while later. I discharged my cypher at the thing, but missed it utterly. While Jemmy and Maga made short work of this metallic creature, I made my way down to the beach in hopes that the magistrate had another cypher. As luck would have it, he indeed had another ray emitter. I hurried back to the fray. We managed to take down another of the automatons, but the rest retreated below the waves.

Only the Magistrate (Neomal), Sali, Ulrie, and the four of us remained in the village. The magistrate had no idea what type of being had attacked, but he instructed us to travel to Keyford and ask for assistance there. We’ve gathered weapons and supplies and will set out in the morning.

Anell, I know not where you have been taken, nor what you have endured, but I am coming for you!