"Come now my child, if we were planning to harm you, do you think we'd be lurking here beside the path in the very darkest part of the forest..." - Kenneth Patchen, "Even So."

THIS IS A BLOG ABOUT STORIES AND STORYTELLING; some are true, some are false, and some are a matter of perspective. Herein the brave traveller shall find dark musings on horror, explorations of the occult, and wild flights of fantasy.

Thursday, July 9, 2015


This is the first chapter of the Numenera: Jihad campaign.

It starts with the "Numenera Main Theme," the fantastic "Restart" from DigitalRepublic.

Then, in the back alleys of Qi, two strangers sit in on a game of Triads.

A Triads board

Triads is a strategy/card game popular throughout the Steadfast.  Two to six players sit down at a hexagonal board divided into triangles.  Each player begins with 20 stones of a single colour.  In the first round, a coloured stone is placed at each of the corners of the twenty four triangles.  The colour of the stone is determined by each player drawing a numbered card, and the lowest card wins.  Once all the stones are placed on the board, play begins.  The object is to take control of as many triangles as possible by having your stones at each corner of it.  To seize control of a corner from another player, a wager is made and five cards are drawn.  Three cards are selected to create the lowest total possible (lowest always wins).  Once initial wagers are made, the opponents each have the choice of raising up to three times.  At the end of the final raise, both must show their hands or the loser surrenders.  Surrendering loses the initial wager and the corner, matching the final wager and losing costs the final wager and corner.  The game is player until one player controls the entire board or the other players run out of Shins to bid.

The game comes down to Jaxon Piaxxi (Level 2, Triads 3) and Beatrix, an Impulsive Jack Who Fuses Flesh and Steel.  When Piaxxi runs out of Shins, he wagers an acorn-sized crystal of pale blue, claiming it contains a map leading to treasure.  This is quietly confirmed by another player--Emerson, a Learned Nano Who Fuses Mind and Machine.  Emerson spots Beatrix the Shins to match Piaxxi's wager and the Jack comes out on top.  He collects the crystal and he and the Nano leave together to discuss how to settle their joint custody of it.

In the back alleys they are ambushed by Piaxxi's men, eight street thugs (Level 2, light weapons, no armour).  Outnumbered they start to fight.  Luckily for them, two passersby leap into the fray to assist them.

They are Lugar of the Marked Name, a Wasteland Glaive Who Knows Too Much and an unnamed Charming Nano Who Works Miracles.  The Wastelander had met the Nano just days before and enigmatically declared the Nano to be "the one I was sent to serve."  He has been following the Nano about since.  When the Wastelander spies Beatrix, he calls him by name (though they have never met) and jumps in to aid him.  

The thugs are defeated and introductions made.  The Wastelander, plagued by prophetic visions, has seen the others in his future.  Intriguingly, the acorn crystal responds to him as well, changing colours.  The Nanos analysis it, and discover it projects a hologram of an inverted pyramid, with coordinates spinning around it.  It lies somewhere off the coast...and 3000 meters above the surface of the sea.  It is called "The Shadow Table." They decide it might be worth seeking out.

As they head for an inn to plan, panic electrifies the streets.  The sky overhead darkens as if by eclipse, while bright flashes of heat lighting flicker and dance.  A smell of ozone fills the air, and static electricity seems to trickle over everything.  A voice speaks, simultaneously in both ears...to every man, woman, and child in Qi.  Possibly even the Steadfast...

I am in Truth he that is called Durranet VI, Keeper of the Keys of Saint Calaval, who Sought and Found the Truth.  I am the Father of the Steadfast, who has ascended to the Throne.  Let all who would Speak the Truth and Seek the Truth know me, and witness the Truth of these words.

O my Sons and Daughters, I am in fear.  The Eidolon of Those Who Went Before has shown me the Storm.  I have seen the Lightnings and heard the Thunders.  I have been torn by the howling Winds.  It rises in the North, O my Steadfast, across the fields of Cloudcrystals, it grows in the black hearts of those who reject the Truth.  It is a seed, a cancer growing in the minds of the Barbarians who cling to superstition and deny that great and glorious First Truth, the words that bring solace and comfort to all Mankind...Nothing Cannot be Understood.  The spirit worshippers, the Gaians, those who deny the Eidolon who raised Men from the Drit, they sharpen their swords, yea verily even now they sharpen them!  They assemble their legions, and they are coming for your children, your lands, your blessed Order of Truth.  Like a living darkness exhaled from the jaws of the Traducer they spread across the sky, blotting out the Light, the Sun, the Truth.  I say unto you, my Steadfast, they come out to extinguish that Holy Flame Saint Calaval returned from the Dying and Reborn Sun.

They come!  They come!  But to all of you I say in Truth, NOT ON MY WATCH.

O ye Nine Rival Kings, from Navarene to Milave, from the Sea Kingdom to imperial Pytharion, all of you who make your habitation between the Black Riage and the Secret Seas, lay aside all differences and be as One in the Truth!  One Body, One Spirit, One Kin, holy and pure and True.  Hear the call of the High Father Above to defend what is right and real.  Arm and armour yourself for the Crusade!  Raise your armies, ye Princes of Men, lift your weapons ye Knights, gather and form O Soldiers!  For night falls and the Sons of the Light must rage against it.  The Jihad is upon us for the sake of Truth!

The skies lighten, the words fall silent.  Life returns to normal, but all is changed.  The Amber Pope has never before spoken to the masses this way.  Who are these Gaians, these enemies of Truth?  

The characters ponder this, but also how to pursue their quest.  Are the two connected?  It would seem a stretch, but the Wastelander's strange visions urge him to think so.  They debate whom to turn to for aid...one of the Nanos has contacts in the Order of Truth, and they are always keen to sponsor investigations into new numenera.  And yet, under the laws of the Steadfast, the Order has the right to select any numenera recovered for itself from any expedition it sponsors.  This leads to the other alternative.

The Jack knows of a collector, an extraordinarily wealthy and reclusive man in Qi by the name of Drakoven.  The story goes that he sponsors expeditions for numenera all the time, and charges only one price.  Anything recovered must be given to him and "scanned" by a strange machine in his possession.  It is then returned unharmed to those who recovered it.  Darkoven seems interested in knowledge only.  

They go to him.

(This will turn out to be one of those choices that shifted the entire direction of the campaign)

Drakoven (Level 6, 7 regarding numenera) is a quiet, still man in simple black, neither overlarge nor imposing, but radiating a chill nonetheless.  He meets them and after examining the crystal reveals a portal in his possession.  He sets the coordinates to those in the crystal.  They have but to prepare and step through...

Once ready they find themselves on the base of a smooth, black, inverted pyramid, high above the seas.  On the centre of the the monolith is a door that opens every 39 seconds and stays open exactly 13 seconds.  They jump through.

The gravity reverses, so now down is up and up is down.  They are in the centre of a black metal labyrinth.  

Once inside they find a fearful anomaly...the interior will not conduct sound of any sort.  Not a word, not a tap, not a scream.  Navigating the maze to its centre, they find a large round room filled with smoky black quartz crystals, some are several meters high, others litter the ground.  It is a treasure trove.  They find several Mass Nodules, Disrupting Nodules, and Invisibility Nodules.  They even recover a Thought Storage Sphere.  Strangest of all, in the bones of a long dead explorer, they find a curious cube or carved brass the size of a fist.  Before they can investigate, the horror within the Shadow Table descends....

It is a Wraith, a thing of tenebrous shadow devouring living matter to exist in this dimension.  Level 5, Armour 2, Damage 4.  They must defeat it to survive...




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