The group is stopped at an ancient defensive ruin just south of a tower ruin. Sarca and Kasciuto accidentally activated the guardian “spirit” (holographic AI) while Dana is working to keep domesticating some snow lopers they found in the mountains.
Previously, I determined that the real bulk of the site is hidden from easy view but there’s a massive fixed weapon that still works. I envision parts of the ruin like a wall slumped into a ramp or a tower snapped halfway up.
The guardian spirit has asked for help preserving this ruin as a testament to the long-gone civilization that built it. No agreement has been made, but Sarca and Kas will definitely be interested. Maybe there’s something useful or valuable here, although they just exchange a look for that rather than say it in front of the spirit.
Before they dig in, we need to do some foundational work using the Perilous Wilds rules again.
Some of this I chose (themes, situation) and some I rolled (form, accesibility, cause of ruin). I have a coherent idea in mind for most of this now, although I’m not quite sure yet what “geometric fortress” means.
This is enough, or maybe more than enough for a relatively small site.
Kas and Sarca promised not to delve without Dana, so they agree only to pokie around surface only until they can fetch her. The above-ground area consists of grass, dirt, rocks, a bit of exposed walls, and the weapon itself (perhaps the antenna if this was something other than a launcher or cannon). Using the Perilous Wilds procedure, what do they find?
Common area, 1d4 = 4 dangers, no discoveries. Common ara is infrastructure, crawl space with conduits. Dangers: **Trap** (alarm), **Trap** (piercing / puncturing), **Creature** (come back to this), **Creature** (beast vermin).
Kas pries open a wall panel and immediately an alarm sounds. He looks around with concern, but the guardian tells him not to worry and, after a few moments, it subsides. As soon as he turns back to it, though, a hive of chance moths fly out. From the Ninth World Bestiary:
A chance moth is a nut-sized insect, lazily buzzing through the air, leaving an incandescent trail of red, green, blue, or some harder-to-describe color in its erratic wake… Chance moths are hive insects. They generally leave other creatures alone unless disturbed or provoked.
Opening this up definitely counts as provoking them, so Kas needs to avoid being stung. I don’t think his skill in “destruction” counts here, and the he used equipment to open the panel isn’t the right tool for this part of the job.
Roll: Stressed, Unconditioned, Supported (by Sarca). Total of 3 dice, highest is 5: success with a complication. Stress = 5, pool unchanged. They’ll both get a sting which does minor damage (condition is “stung” until they rest), but I’ll roll a d100 with a “bonus” die (Call of Cthulhu style) against the effect table for the chance moths:
Target gains the single-use ability to become invisible for up to one hour (thus becoming specialized in stealth and Speed defense tasks) or until the target attacks another creature. Translating from Numenera-speak, when he’s invisible he’ll get an Advantaged die.
Kas and Sarca gingerly poke into the space uncovered by the panel. They don’t find anything particularly useful, but Sarca needs to move carefully to avoid some of the sharper bits among the artifacts here.
Roll: Stressed, Skilled (artifacts), Supported (by Kasciuto). Total of 3 dice, highest is 6: success. Stress = 6, pool unchanged. She deftly avoids the poke and prod of the ancient equipment.
Something else is in here, though, and I’ll roll on the “Exploring the Ruins” random encounter table:  Mastigophore. We’ve dealt with these before.
Mastigophores are automatons that look human but can instantly transform their hands into long, barbed whips whenever they wish. When first encountered, they appear to be average, uniformed humans with a military stance. Quiet and excellent stalkers, they are encountered in one of two modes: on guard or hunting.
Mastigophores guard certain ancient ruins, complexes, or machines. They usually warn trespassers away once with unintelligible words (but obvious intentions), and if their warning is not heeded, they attack and fight without regard for their safety. They are almost always in groups of two or more.
The automatons need to consume organic material to function and create their weapons. Although they can subsist on plant matter, whoever created mastigophores designed them to enjoy hunting and killing animal prey. In this endeavor, they are very aggressive, and they act alone, leaving their “partners” behind to guard whatever it is they’re protecting.
In this case, the mastigophore immediately lashes out, extruding “organic matter from their wrists in the form of long, barbed whips”. The two explorers dive out of the way, shouting for the guardian spirit to help. It takes a moment for the AI to take control of the automaton in here, so they’ll have to make a risk roll to avoid being stunned.
Roll: Stressed, Equipped (dagger), Supported (by Kasciuto), Advantaged (guardian AI). Total of 4 dice, highest is 6: success! Stress = 4, pool decreases to 5. The barbs whip past them, but they’re able to avoid being stunned. After a moment, the mastigophore is under the control of the guardian spirit, which tells them to leave it alone for now.
This seems like a good time to go get Dana before they descend into the below-ground portion of the ruin. She’s excited but will need to make arrangements to keep the snow lopers safe nearby. Speaking of which, how’s that going?
Roll: Stressed, Skilled (beasts), Equipped (rope), Advantaged (previous success). Total of 4 dice, highest is 4: success with a complication. Stress = 2, pool decreases to 4. The snow lopers are doing fine, but they’re getting restless with this human trying to train them to carry burdens. Dana will take a new condition, “frustrated”, which will clear after she’s had a chance to rest.
This seems like the right time to do that. They’ve made some progress here in the plains, and everyone is a bit beaten down. Better to take a break and replenish themselves before delving the ruins in the morning. Dana recovers 1 die and clears that “frustrated” condition, but still has 1 in her exhausted pool and thus the ankle is still bothering her. Sarca recovers her 1 die and clears her “stung” condition. Kas doesn’t recover either of his 2 exhausted dice but at least he can clear his “stung” condition and get back to exploring in the morning.
In the morning, the group gathers their equipment and tentatively enters the space they’d previously opened. The mastigophore has stood down, at least as far as this group is concerned, now that the guardian AI has re-established control. This infrastructure access space has 2 exits, so let’s see where the first one leads.
Common area, no discoveries or dangers. Area is a barracks with inscription / ornamentation. The bedding has long since rotted away, but the walls are covered in strange symbols and inscriptions. The guardian spirit tells them that those were sacred to the people who built this place, and that they should treat them with respect. This isn’t really part of their mission here anyway, so they press on into the next area.
This time the dice indicate:
Common area, no discoveries or dangers. Area is a kitchen with mold and fungus. The food of course is long gone, but somehow the mold and fungus that devoured it have survived down here. Perhaps they’ve fed on other organic material: vermin and the like that made their way into the ruins. There are several exits out of here, so this is a pretty important hub for the small site.
Entering another area, we find
Common area, 1 danger. Area is another barracks with mold and fungus. Danger is a trap based on oddity: absurd / impossible. The fungus from the kitchen grew along the hallway and into this living space, which housed a smaller number of staff (maybe specialists or leaders of some sort). The hazard here (a better term than trap for this purpose) is a field of manipulated gravity. As they enter the barracks, they find themselved pulled slightly in different directions, disorienting them and making it difficult to navigate or even stand up. Kas and Sarca get caught up in it. Can they make it out without getting entirely disoriented or even injured? I’ll have Sarca roll for this:
Roll: Stressed, Unconditioned, Skilled (artifacts), Supported (by Kasciuto). Total of 4 dice, highest is 3: failure. Stress = 3, pool decreases to 5. Both of them are injured by the shifting spatial distortions. How bad is it? Bad enough that they’ll both take a condition that will require a full rest to clear, “warped”.
They’ve made it this far without encountering any useful discoveries. What would they do with fungus samples? Actual researchers who study living things or the geometry and nature of the universe could make use of this all, maybe, but not people intent on either grabbing some loot or finding a way to preserve the ruins. This area is a dead end, so they’ll double back through the kitchen to see what other areas they can find.
In fact, they’ve explored the majority of the site at this point. The next area they find is
Common area, 1 discovery. Area is a storage room with mold and fungus. Discovery is a statue / idol. Sarca examines the statue closely to determine if it serves some practical function or purely ornamental?
Roll: Stressed, Skilled (artifacts), Supported (by Dana), Advantaged (AI assistance). Total of 4 dice, highest is 6: success! Stress = 5, pool unchanged. In fact, it does serve some function. To determine what, I decide to roll on the “Cypher List” table in Numenera Discovery (p. 275):  Comprehension graft. There’s a small metallic disk on the statue they remove and examine.
When applied to a creature’s head, the disk immediately unleashes microfilaments that enter the brain. Within five minutes, the creature can understand the words of a specific language keyed to the graft. This is true even of creatures that do not normally have a language. Once the graft attaches, the effect is permanent.
(NB: edited to remove Numenera mechanics)
Sarca could save this to use on someone else, but it is undoubtedly keyed for the language of the ancient civilization that built this place. Using it now could allow them to comprehend more of the inscriptions they’ll find in ruins of the Kazu Empire, so before Dana or Kasciuto have time to react, Sarca applies the disk to her own head. The microfilaments enter her brain, and she sits for a minute as the technology works what seems like magic to the explorers.
The other two look on with concern as Sarca’s eyes dart back and forth at an alarming rate and her lips murmur inaudibly. Finally, after several minutes, she stands up and strides immediately back to the barracks with the inscriptions. “I can read these now,” she announces. “This is all Kazu, and it’s mostly just inspirational sayings to motivate the soldiers and keep them focused on the mission. Things like, ‘honor the empire and serve with courage, defend the frontier and preserve our legacy,’ and so on. One of them, though, says, ‘blessed be the mighty Kazu, who guide us and give us strength.’ I wonder what the Kazu were? Leaders, the people, gods, something else?” The guardian remains silent on this point.
In any case, the explorers have one more area to check.
Unique area, 1d4 = 1 discovery. Area is the command center with an echo in it.Discovery is a find: coins / gem / jewelry with divination / scrying magic. This is a wristband made of a strange metal, consisting of several small disks stamped with the same symbol. The symbol is a circle with a dot in the center, and it’s surrounded by a ring of 8 smaller circles. The circles are all different, but they all have the same dot in the center. To figure out what this does, I will roll again on the “Cypher List”:  Temporal viewer.
Displays moving images and sound, up to one hour in length, depicting events that occurred at the current location up to one year prior. The user specifies the time period shown by the viewer.
That’s incredibly useful, or it could be sold for significant value later.
After figuring out what it does and how it works, Sarca hands it over to Kasciuto. If they do end up using it, he’s the most likely to get value out of it. The guardian now expects them to do something to help preserve the ruin, and the control room seems like the right place. Firing up the weapon would be incredibly dangerous and possibly lead to random destruction, so together they decide to shut it down. That’s a bit risky too, since they could accidentally trigger the weapon, but there’s no action here that incurs zero risk. Sarca and Kasciuto confer briefly over the console.
Roll: Stressed, Skilled (artifacts), Supported (by Kas), Advantaged (guardian AI), Devil's Bargain (no matter what, the weapon can never be fired again). Total of 5 dice, highest is 6: success! Stress = 3, pool decreases to 4. They shut down the weapon and can hear the ancient power coils buried far below shut down as well. The guardian is pleased with their work, and they return to the surface.
┌─────────────┐ ┌──────────┐ │ Surface │───────│ Antennae │ └─────────────┘ └──────────┘ │ │ │ ┌──────────┐ ┌─────────────────┐ │ Control │ │ Infrastructure │─────│ Room │ └─────────────────┘ └──────────┘ │ │ │ │ ┌────────────┐ ┌───────────┐ ┌───────────┐ │ Barracks │────────│ Kitchen │──────│ Storage │ └────────────┘ └───────────┘ └───────────┘ │ │ ┌────────────────┐ │ │ │ Barracks with │ │ gravity warp │ │ │ └────────────────┘
That’s enough for their day! From here, they’ll just try to recover. The next time we see them, they’ll be at the entrance to the tower. Dana and Kasciuto don’t recover any dice, but Sarca gets one back. The “warped” condition will stick around a little bit longer because I think it could become really interesting in the next bit of exploration. They’re unlikely to delve the entire ruin in one go, so they can recover from it later.
This session consisted mostly of another trial run of the Perilous Wilds dungeon rules before we try them out in a big environment like the tower. Sometimes I think I need to tweak the random tables, and other times I think just interpreting them in a way that works for this setting accomplishes what I want. For now, I’ll continue to do the latter, but if there ever were a time to tweak them, now would be it.
Also, I’ve started to think I include too much mechanical description. At some point, I might experiment with minimizing that and focusing on the generated narrative. Originally I included it because this is pretty much how I take the notes, but now that I’m writing the Markdown directly and using git to manage the documents, that’s less necessary. Perhaps that’s a change for a future game.