The Tree of Knowledge – a Numenera Session

Ran a game of Numenera last night with 6 characters (which is probably the upper limit, because it can get hard to give everyone the attention they deserve). It remained a fairly cerebral session of discussion, investigation, travel and planning – only a few dice rolls and no combat.

Correction: I actually managed this session with 7 people, as I forgot a late arrival. In total, I think we had a Glaive, two Jacks and four Nano.

The idea for the adventure came to me through a combination of reading Numenera source material – specifically the core rules and Ryan Chaddock’s excellent Celestial Wisdom – finding a picture of a frankly bizarre tree, and a roll of my newly acquired Rory’s Story Cubes. The rest just seemed to fall into place…

Unnatural Landscape by janhein on DeviantArt

Unnatural Landscape by janhein on DeviantArt

The party of adventurers involved comes from a larger pool of characters created with my gaming group – and the division of players this session meant we had far more Nano characters. Luckily, they haven’t engaged in any open conflict yet, though they no doubtexpect some next session.

The group visited Jyrek in Thaemor, west of the Black Riage mountains. The fortress city has a small clave of Aeon Priests who reside in black stone blisters, adhered to the inside of the walls. Brother Point, the head of the clave, requested the assistance of the group – through one of their Order of Truth loyal members – to investigate worrying news from Briary, a settlement three days ride north-east. Briary has been troubled by phantoms, it would seem.

The people of Briary live within and tend something called the Tree of Knowledge. Once a year, the inhabitants of Briary harvest the leaves of the 500′ tall tree, at the height of summer, and this harvest bears fruit in the form of leaves covered with a tracery of ancient language. The settlement gathers, binds and presents a Book of Knowledge each year to the Order of Truth – and while the volumes remains largely undeciphered, what little the Order has translated has proved very useful in the Amber Pope’s great works.

Recent news from the settlements tell of farmers and their livestock attacked by phantoms, leaving them maimed or dead. Brother Point wonders whether a less fanciful explanation might lie behind the incidents, like numenera-armed bandits or abhumans working out of the mountains. With the harvest 6 weeks away, the attacks on Briary must not threaten the creation of the next book.

After gathering supplies and borrowing mounts from the Order, the party voyaged to Briary through the rich and lush lands of Thaemor. Despite the great potential of the land, the people seem to live in a worrying state of paranoia, too fearful of what might be to fully make use of the kingdom’s great potential.

Two-and-a-half days into the voyage, the party could see the Tree on the horizon, and by the close of the day, this towering plant lay directly before them. Something like a weeping willow, with a thick umbrella of foliage, the party’s approach revealed a guarded gateway. A few questions of the guard, and mention of the Order, led the party to split – some going to see Councillor Rand, head of Briary’s ruling forum, and others to the hospital, to see victims of the attacks.

The hospital lay toward the outskirts, in rays of light filtered through the foliage. An open gazebo-type affair, patients lay within on pallets lined with fragrant grass and soft leaves. More than a dozen victims in varying states had suffered attacks that mashed and tore their muscles, organs and bones. The lucky few escaped with their lives, maimed or crippled. Those less fortunate died due to massive warping and destruction of their bodies – akin to the damage caused by the Iron Wind (though such had not been seen in these parts).

The rest found the settlements leaders in a building pressed against the base of the tree’s trunk, a great meeting hall grown from the bark of the plant itself. Rand, a tall, hook-nosed man in an earthy-red robe, accepted the assistance of the group on hearing Brother Point’s name and graciously welcomed the offer of help. The party quizzed him and others about the attacks – and it appeared they might have been going on for decades. In the past, a death in the mountains had been put down to savage abhumans or inhumanly vicious bandits. In recent times, the threat had drawn closer, until in the last few months farmers and livestock turned up dead.

Talk with Rand and further discussion with a survivor suggested some phantasmal threat. The maimed farmer referenced a sudden and merciless attack by something akin to a shimmering heat haze, a tidal wall of distortion that horrifically killed his livestock and left him with a useless right arm, half-blind and a collapsed lung. One of the party with experience of phasing recognise the severe injuries having suffered a lesser trauma himself when first discovering his powers. Whatever might threaten Briary appeared to have the ability to phase matter as a form of attack and approached the outskirts of the settlement with increasing savagery. Rand feared that the harvest would be disrupted and Briary itself – and the tree with it – destroyed.

Armed with this information, the party conspired with formulate a plan of approach. Some investigation of the surrounding land led to recall of abandoned fortresses, left over from the wars that once threatened Thaemor’s borders before the rise of Landon, the kingdom’s greatest warrior and saviour. Might one of these fortresses serve as home to the threat, or did it come from somewhere else in the forests or mountains to the east?

I guess we’ll find out next week…






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