Solo Skald |||

I’ve been thinking about my approach here and it feels a little more seat-of-my-pants than I’d like. Let’s talk about procedures.

Old-school exploration

One of the joys of D&D and the part of the RPG hobby relatively closely related to it is the focus on exploration. As part of that, this particular approach lends itself to procedural generation of content. That’s a little different than (say) rolling on oracles that give you general terms to use for envisioning a scene” like Ironsworn encourages. One approach isn’t necessarily better than another, but in this particular campaign I want to stick with the old-school approach, or something like it anyway. It’s a game, not a dogma.

So after reading the relevant sections in Worlds Without Number again, I’m going to try to use the following procedure in the wilderness:

  1. Move to a new hex on an existing map and observe whether there are any illustrated features or terrain already. If so, constrain rolls in the next steps to those features or terrain.
  2. Determine the Terrain type from another random table. WWN doesn’t have these, but I have plenty of others. For example, I could use the Wilderness Terrain and Features” from Scarlet Heroes p. 123, but I could also use the Geography and Natural Scenery” table in Ultraviolet Grasslands p. 183.
  3. Roll a d6; on a 1, there is a point of interest. Roll on the Wilderness Tags” table in WWN p. 206.
  4. Roll another d6; on a 1, there is a wandering encounter. Roll on the Wilderness Encounters” table in WWN p. 205.
  5. Depending on the tags and encounters, choose or roll from the Enemies, Friends, Complications, Things, and Places for the tag.

One weakness here is that we don’t have a sense yet for what the beasts and monsters might be. For that, I think I’ll continue to use the Random Encounter Tables” in The Ninth World Bestiary for Numenera, choosing a subtable relevant to the terrain type or environment.

From there, we engage the Abenteuerspiel! rules and proceed as appropriate.

Rest and recuperation

Before our party heads back out, let’s look at their current condition and ready pools:

  • Dana: no conditions; pool = 4
  • Sarca: no conditions; pool = 4
  • Kasciuto: condition: Burned; pool = 4

We’re going to assume they made it back to a community and rested overnight. That means they can roll the dice in their exhausted pools and return results of 4+ to ready. Dana, Sarca, and Kasciuto recover 0, 2, and 1 dice respectively.

Kasciuto has the additional complication of being burned. This isn’t just a question of rolling dice; he needs to do something in the fiction to cure that. I don’t know how severe it really is, so I’ll roll a die (higher is better): [6]. It’s a light burn and thus he only needs to find a poultice or something similar to apply to the wound.

Isle of Kheyus

  1. 2019 Dyson Logos

What kind of community are we in, anyway? Let’s look at the map. I’ve chosen to use the Isle of Kheyus map from Dyson Logos. We’re at the large settlement, the eponymous Kheyus, on the southern coast where the river lets out into the sea. Taking inspiration from Dyson’s description, they’re pretty hostile to adventurers, so finding a healer might be mildly risky. Quoting Dyson:

The city of Kheyus sits at the outlet of the main river of the island and ekes out a living from the Copper Seas and subsistence farming in the river valley. The people of Kheyus are openly hostile to explorers” and adventurers” seeking treasure and ancient history in the ruins to the north — more than once have the defensive constructs of that city (awakened by nosy explorers) threatened the city and farmlands here, and one on occasion an ancient plague was released that killed nearly a third of the populace.

I’ll call this the Scars of War” tag from WWN:

The community is still bloodied by a recent violent conflict. A crushing bandit raid, a lost siege, getting caught at the periphery of a major battle, or some other calamity has inflicted severe damage on the place. Some communities may suffer a longer-term version of this, their youths lost in a grinding, endless battle against some perpetual threat.

It doesn’t have to be an exact match to give us some interesting elements. Let’s assume that a defensive construct recently laid waste to an outlying section of the community before it could be brought down. So we’ll choose (and adapt) the following:

  • Enemies: Natives driven to extremes by their losses
  • Friends: Bedraggled survivors
  • Complications: The damage was mostly taken by one group
  • Treasures: A cache of treasure concealed by looters
  • Places: Damaged half-occupied house

That’s enough for now. The group isn’t really looking for treasure here; they want to get back out into the wilderness. So instead, they’ll tread carefully into the town, trying their best to look like locals and find a healer. As noted, it’s risky, so Kasciuto asks around quietly. Roll: Stressed, Skilled (bartering), Supported (by the group), Devil's Bargain (they have to leave after this no matter what). Total of 4 dice, highest is 6: success! Stress = 5, pool unchanged at 5. He finds a healer who dresses his wounds; the condition will clear after one more night of rest. But a couple of other fellows in the healer’s shop overhear the conversation and start shouting about cursed adventurers” and whatnot, so the group hurries out of town along the river bank.

Into the Wilderness

They’re not quite in true wilderness yet, but rather in the farmland just north of Kheyus. We roll both d6s and neither show a 1. I thought about having something here anyway, because there is something on the map, but I’d rather get further out and see more interesting stuff. We can always envision the group picking their way past burned houses, torn-up fields, and the like. There’s a small bit of river traffic, but it’s not too busy. This isn’t real exploration here, anyway, so they make it through this section pretty quickly.

In the next hex north, they’re still on the eastern bank of the river with plains stretching further east and north. We roll and get a 1 on the POI die, so let’s generate a tag here. [74] Refugee Camp. I’ll interpret this as related to the recent destruction in Kheyus. WWN p. 216 describes it:

There’s a refugee camp in the area made up of people who’ve fled some calamity… The refugees have no better place to go or they’d have gone there by now; they’re probably dying off to local hazards at a greater or lesser rate, or trying to turn the camp into a functional settlement.

I envision it as the latter. For some reason, the other residents of Kheyus didn’t want them to come, or perhaps the refugees don’t want to go live in the city. So they’re trying to support each other here. Let’s pick some elements:

  • Enemies: Horrible beast that hunts them
  • Friends: Earnest religious leader
  • Complications: The refugees are Blighted / abhuman
  • Things: Vital cache of supplies
  • Places: Miserable camp of crude shanties

That’s why they’re not staying in Kheyus; they’re Blighted (in WWN terms; Numenera would say abhuman”). The Numenera Discovery Corebook lists five types on p. 13:

  1. Chirog, page 229
  2. Margr, page 240
  3. Murden, page 243
  4. Sathosh, page 251
  5. Yovok, page 261

I’ll roll a d6; on a 6, I’ll roll twice again and assume the community has both types. [5] Yovok. From the Discovery book:

The horrid yovoki are short, squat abhumans with jaundiced skin draped loosely over their flabby, hairless bodies. They hunt and kill for pleasure, although they happily eat whatever they kill as well. In fact, they eat constantly and seem able to digest almost anything.

Yovoki are too disordered to have a strict group hierarchy. Instead, they all just yell and snort and squeal until one of them gets their way. There are two yovoki genders, but sometimes even they cannot tell the difference between their males and females.

This is a little gross to me and reeks of some weird racism. Let’s just assume that’s the reputation they have among the folks in Kheyus but not necessarily reflective of reality. In fact, can ChatGPT rewrite this?

The Yovoki are a unique species of abhumans in the Numenera world, with distinctive jaundiced skin and squat, hairless bodies. While they do engage in hunting and killing for sustenance and pleasure, they are also known to be able to digest almost anything they come across.

Yovoki society operates in a more chaotic and disordered manner, with individuals vying for dominance through vocal displays and physical posturing. Despite this, they do not have a strict hierarchy, and the most dominant individuals are often determined through a process of negotiation and compromise.

There are two genders within the Yovoki species, although even they may struggle to distinguish between male and female individuals. This, combined with their chaotic behavior, creates a unique and diverse society that is not easily defined by traditional norms. The Yovoki are a fascinating and complex species, and it is important to approach them with an open mind and an understanding that their behavior may not always align with our own cultural norms.

I like this a lot better: it’s not denying some of the observed elements, but it’s presenting them in a less negative light. Discovery also says that they typically wander in small groups of three to six in the mountains and hills,” so whatever happened with that defensive construct must have been pretty bad.

To see what’s hunting them, let’s roll on the Numenera encounter table for Trekking Across the Plains or Desert”: [43] Dedimaskis.

To the eyes of most people, a dedimaskis appears to be a squirming horde, not a single thing. And in a way, it is, though truthfully, it is both a horde and a single thing at once. An ancient machine, a dedimaskis is covered with smaller machines slaved to it. These small, insect-like machines shift across its surface so its form continually seems to undulate and seethe. The dedimaskis seems more like a creature than an automaton—the movement of the swarm of small surface machines almost looks like breathing—but it is an unliving construct, to be sure. It follows ancient directives that no one has ever been able to parse. It is an engine of destruction, but its targets are selective— seemingly random. When a dedimaskis floats into a human village, it might destroy a specific building but not those next to it. It might hunt for three individuals out of hundreds, target all the pets, or destroy only the mill.

This sounds more like the construct we described before. Maybe Kheyus didn’t defeat it so much as get it to wander back north away from their community, and the yovoki have also suffered from it. It’s a huge, devastating thread, and our adventurers are in no position to try to combat it.

But at the same time, can they convince the Yovoki to let them rest here? Kasciuto is a good talker, so let’s have him try. Roll: Stressed, Skilled (bartering), Supported (by the group), Devil's Bargain (they'll have to share their provisions with the starving abhumans). Total of 4 dice, highest is 6: success! Stress = 6, pool unchanged at 5. The yovoki are far more hospitable than their reputation would suggest. Dana will also volunteer to take a watch with the other warriors, and they’ll be able to rest for the night.

Dana, Sarca, and Kasciuto make their way through the wilderness, following the winding river until they come across a bustling yovoki refugee camp. The camp is set up on a wide riverbank, with tents and makeshift shelters dotting the area. The yovoki are a mix of males and females, all of them short and squat with jaundiced skin. They are hard at work, preparing food, tending to the injured, and taking care of the young.

Kasciuto approaches them with a friendly smile, offering to barter some food in exchange for a place to stay overnight. The yovoki are wary at first, but after a bit of negotiation they agree to allow the group to stay in the camp for mutual protection. Dana even volunteers to take a watch overnight, working alongside the other yovoki warriors to keep the camp safe.

As the night wears on, Dana learns more about the yovoki and their culture, finding that they are a proud and resilient people despite their current circumstances. Despite their initial reservations, she finds herself warming to them, and by the end of the night she has made some new friends among the abhumans. The yovoki camp is a lively and chaotic place, full of energy and the sounds of laughter, cooking, and conversation. It is a welcome respite from the dangers of the wilderness, and the group is grateful for the chance to rest and recover before setting out on their next adventure.

That’s another replenishment roll: Dana gets her two dice back, but Kasciuto does not recover his. He does clear his condition, though, as the poultice does its work on the burns. He might still have some light scarring for the foreseeable future, but that’s the life of an adventurer.

Up the River

In the morning, the group of explorers say their goodbyes and continue upriver, this time with allies at their back.

I need to think about travel pace here. I think I’m going to stick with my general hand-wave: two hexes per day in open terrain like this; one hex per day in difficult terrain like the mountains or forest.

So in the next hex to the northwest, we roll our POI and encounter dice, and neither show a 1. What’s the weather like, though? I’m going to use the Scarlet Heroes oracles again, from page 115, assuming this is the dry season, and I roll 2d4: [4] Clear and windy. The grass is rippling and the foraging is plentiful here by the river.

In the afternoon, we move to a hex where the river forks, and we roll our POI and encounter dice again. No 1s this time either, but the group needs to rest overnight. They can see a forest to the north where the river flows out of, and that’s going to slow them down a good bit. There’s a forest to their southwest as well, but they aren’t headed that way.

So they make camp here at the fork and I decide to update my procedures to roll for an encounter again at night, triggering on a 1-2 as there should be more predators out at night. This time I roll a 1, so we roll on the Numenera encounter table for Venturing Close to the Water”: [59] Sathosh. From Discovery p. 251:

Sathosh are gaunt abhumans that have a long tentacle writhing from where their face should be. They are silent, and they see and communicate via subsonic pulses they emit almost constantly. It is perhaps easier to think of them as having hyper-acute hearing and a sort of sonar.

Sathosh are communal creatures, thriving on the presence of others of their kind and living without any type of hierarchy. They are kind and loving to one another but hateful and cruel to all other life.

Are they really hateful and cruel to all other life? I’m not sure about that, although they could certainly default to a hostile stance in many situations. Here, I will roll the Die of Fate: on a 1-3, they’re hostile; on a 4-5, they’re neutral; and on a 6, they are in need of something. I roll a 4, so they’re neutral.

Why are they out here, though? If they mostly perceive the world though sound, then night doesn’t matter that much to them and they’re doing whatever they do. WWN has a table on p. 205, Nonhuman Sapient Encounters”, and the result of rolling on this is [7] non-humans chasing a human escapee.

That does change things a bit; they might be neutral to us, but will we be neutral to them? Well, first let’s see which of our characters is on watch; rolling randomly, it turns out to be Sarca. They’re already a nervous sort, particularly around strange creatures, so if the sathosh leave her alone, she’ll do the same.

At the start of the night, Sarca casts the protect area ritual, and magic is always risky. I should have rolled for that earlier, but the result will tell us something about the situation. Roll: Stressed, Unconditioned, Skilled (rituals), Supported (by the group). Total of 4 dice, highest is 4: success with a complication. Stress = 2, pool decreases to 5. The condition is mental fatigue;” Sarca cannot cast this ritual again for the next day or so (including the following night).

But the ritual did succeed, so the sathosh just go around the camp. We haven’t seen the escapee (based on no prior random encounters), so there’s no need to get involved. In fact, it seems doubtful that Sarca even knows why the sathosh are out, so she’ll just keep watch and hope they don’t come to the camp proper.

In the morning, we’ll make replenishment rolls for Sarca and Kasciuto: both of them get a die back and their ready pools are at full.

Headed to the forest

After sunrise, they continue north up the river, and in the afternoon they reach the forest. The river’s width is decreasing, particularly after they pass another fork. Let’s give this large forest a name: the Corrose Woodland. I think corrose” relates to corrosive” and ultimately gnawing”, so we’ll envision the trees as having been partially gnawed or eaten away, with the bark scraped off in places. We don’t know what we’ll find here, and we’ll need to pay close attention. The weather is still clear and windy.

Rolling our POI and encounter dice, we don’t get any 1s. It’s slow going, so they’ll have to sleep before they reach the next hex. I’ll roll for an encounter at night, and we get a 4, so things remain calm. Everyone’s ready pools are at 6, so no replenishment is needed.

The next forest hex remains fairly uninteresting. The weather is hot and damp, and the group occasionally refreshes themselves on the riverbank itself. Sarca is interested in these trees and what is eroding or corroding the bark. They’ll check closely and take some risks. If things go poorly, they could get hurt falling out of the trees, or (in a bad outcome) they could encounter something dangerous. Roll: Stressed, Unconditioned, Equipped (Dana's rope), Supported (by the group). Total of 4 dice, highest is 4: success with a complication. Stress = 3, pool decreases to 5. Dana’s rope breaks, and Sarca does in fact fall to the ground. They’re fine, but the rope is torn and will need to be replaced.

What do they discover, though? Is it something dangerous? We’ll roll the die of fate: on a 1-3, it’s dangerous; on a 4-5, it’s neutral; and on a 6, it’s helpful. [1], so now we need to figure out what the danger is. On a 1-3, it’s a creature of some sort; on a 4-6, it’s some local effect (on a 6 it’s magical). [6] so Sarca is quite intrigued!

This isn’t really a POI, but it stems from the name and our envisioning of it, which makes this even more interesting to me. The whole forest is the point of interest! Do any of the Wilderness Tags explain this? Candidates include:

  • Arratu Land
  • Cursed Land
  • Decayed Working
  • Devil Grove
  • Healing Terrain
  • Rampant Experiment

That’s six choices, so I’ll roll a die: [3] Decayed Working. WWN describes it (p. 210) like this:

There’s an ancient Working in the area that is broken or decayed, and the original effect it was intended to produce has been twisted into something dangerous. Infrastructure Workings meant to provide good fortune, health, or swift travel might now create ill-luck, plagues, or vomit forth extra-dimensional horrors… Completely destroying the Working might end the problem or create an even greater disaster from the magical fallout.

What’s a Working, anyway? Page 90:

In the jargon of wizards, a Working is any stationary, persistent magical effect or structure, such as a magical ever-flowing spring, an array of heatless eternal lamps, or a persistent curse that blights all within its reach. Unlike a conventional magical item, a Working cannot be moved from its set location, and unlike a spell it will normally persist until damage or thaumic decay finally disperse it.

(emphasis original)

The Working itself isn’t necessarily comprehensible to the characters, in much the some way that a Bronze Age human might have difficulty understanding a particle accelerator or a data center. This isn’t necessarily a problem to solve, though. It’s dangerous, though. Staying here for a protracted period could have negative effects. If we get a chance to talk to the yovoki again in the future, we might ask one of them about it.

That night, no encounter occurs. Two more forest hexes to cover: the first one is uneventful, but we get an encounter at night. Rolling on the Wandering Through the Woods” subtable in the Ninth World Bestiary, we get [17] Culova. Discovery p. 231:

Culovas are spidery humanoids with eight spindly legs, a bulbous midsection, and a pair of human-like arms with three fingers. Eight eyes adorn their heads like colored beads above disturbingly broad, toothy mouths. They move with astonishing quickness.

Culovas are usually peaceful creatures that live in small groups deep within a forest, hunting for food and caring for their young. They lead simple lives.

Their motive is just defense” and we’re not bothering them. Perhaps we just made camp in their territory. On Interaction”, the book says:

Culovas avoid contact with other intelligent creatures unless they or their territories are threatened. They do not leave familiar ground except in extraordinary circumstances, so they are always on the defensive, even when they launch an attack. However, an attacking culova can be reasoned with. If you can convince the creature that you’re not a threat or that you’ll cease being a threat — which usually involves leaving the area — you might get through the encounter unscathed.

Kasciuto has come to bargain again! Roll: Stressed, Unconditioned, Skilled (bartering), Supported (by the group). Total of 4 dice, highest is 5: success with a complication. Stress = 2, pool decreases to 5. What’s the complication? Based on the description, the group needs to move camp overnight, and so everybody takes the condition Tired”. The culova is satisfied, and they move on.

This is the last forest hex. They can see some hills rising ahead of them, and following the river will eventually curve their path towards the mountains to their west. The forest remains fortunately uneventful, and they reach the treeline in the evening. From here, they can continue north along the river into the mountains, possibly trying to cross into the city found within.

So far this expedition has not encountered too much of interest. That night, no encounter occurs. Kasciuto doesn’t recover his ready pool, unfortunately. The group decides to head north and look for a pass to the city within the mountain range.

This next hex consists of forested hills and a river. From the map, this is the headwaters of the river, and it’s a very logical place for a pass. Is it hidden? That would be ill-fortune for the explorers, so we roll a die: 3, not really hidden but perhaps it’s difficult for the explorers and they’ve just missed it.

Nighttime Ambush

They’ll spend the night here, and if they don’t find it on a POI or encounter roll then we’ll do a risk roll. For the night’s encounter, I roll a [2], so they find a [97] xiomarche. From the Ninth World Bestiary p. 137:

Xiomarche are dangerous animals, well known in some places in the world for their strange life cycle. They take down prey much larger than themselves (a xiomarche is about 3 feet [1 m] across, with a wingspan of twice that), feast upon it, spray it with nasty pheromones to drive away most scavengers, and then implant their already-fertilized eggs in the corpse. In seven to ten days, young xiomarche thrust up through the decomposing corpse and grow on it almost like blooming flowers. Once ready— usually after another ten to fourteen days—they detach from the corpse and fly away. They grow to full maturity in another few months. A xiomarche reproduces only once in its lifetime.

Sarca probably knows these as rot blooms”.

This is definitely going to be risky. It’s night time, after all, and the xiomarche will be looking to feed and reproduce. Kasciuto’s on watch when the creature shows up. Before he can wake the others, there’s a risk it stings him with its venom; on a success, he avoids the venom and wakes up his comrades, but on a mixed success he’ll only be able to choose one of those. Roll: Stressed, Unconditioned, Equipped (improvised torch from the campfire). Total of 3 dice, highest is 4: success with a complication. Stress = 4, pool decreases to 4. The xiomarche - what Sarca calls a rot bloom” upon being awakened by the yelling - manages to sting Kasciuto, who takes the condition Poisoned”.

Dana leaps into the fray with her spear to try to kill this horror and pin it to a tree or something. Roll: Stressed, Unconditioned, Skilled (tactics), Equipped (spear), Supported (by Sarca). Total of 5 dice, highest is 5: success with a complication. Stress = 5, pool decreases to 5. She similarly is stung in the fight (taking the same condition as Kasciuto) but manages to kill the xiomarche.

The poison isn’t lethal, but it probably hurts and burns. We’ll roll a die to see if it resolves on its own or if they’ll need to find something to counter it. On a 1-3, it’s fine; on a 4-5, it’ll pass after a day; on a 6, Sarca will go looking for a cure in the morning when it’s light. 2, so it’ll be okay shortly.

In the morning, we’ll make some replenishment rolls: Kasciuto gets back 1, but Dana does not, so each of them have 5 dice in their ready pools although Sarca is at 6.

As noted before the ambush, if the pass doesn’t show up as a POI or relevant encounter, they’ll have to make a risk roll to find it. The static rolls don’t pan out, so Sarca will do some scouting as they’re in the best shape. The other two will support, of course! Roll: Stressed, Unconditioned, Supported (by the group), Devil's Bargain (somebody is following them). Total of 4 dice, highest is 4: success with a complication. Stress = 4, pool decreases to 5. We’ll figure out who’s following them later, but for now they find the pass.

The complication, however, is that it’s hard to reach. The only way they see up to it is a narrow and very long staircase carved straight from the mountain. And Dana’s rope was ruined before! They can still do it, but it’ll be slightly riskier. On a failure, one of them could get hurt; a complication could be something like a hostile guard. Dana is leading the way, and fortunately the venom has cleared out from her and Kasciuto’s systems. Roll: Stressed, Unconditioned, Equipped (spear for leverage and balance), Supported (by the group). Total of 4 dice, highest is 6: success! Stress = 6, pool decreases to 4. The trek is long and arduous but the group makes it without incident. They’re now in the city of the mountain, and they can explore it in the next session.


This worked a lot better today by defining my processes more clearly up front. However, I didn’t like how few points of interest popped up. I think I’ll tweak those probabilities in the future.

Next time, we’ll be figuring out more about this city and the ruins to the north.

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