Those Who Came Before – Session 3

This session represents something of an interlude between delves, although it has a bit of adventure in it anyway.

A hex map of an area primarily consisting of wasteland, with a small verdant valley in the far southeast.
Local region. Map built with HexKit


Penny (budding inventor), Roland (her childhood friend), and Beorsson (former? pirate) made their way back into Duskburn, a tiny settlement in the badlands centered on an ancient forge, now more or less defunct. They head into the local tavern, the Drunken Wrench, where the proprietor (Samuel, himself a retired tinker) puts them up. His establishment has all kinds of weird brewing equipment and pipes and general mechanical doo-dads inside, outside, and in back. Once they realize this, they quickly get him to purchase the head of one of the automatons from their delve for 10 guilders. This represents a significant amount of money, although they later realized that the quickness with which he offered them that much probably should have told them something.

The rest of the folks in the bar watch them quietly. Some fixate on all the visible arcana the group carries; one other kid pays close attention to Beorsson before slipping out the door.

After deciding to see what else they can get rid of, plus needing to resupply, they head across the street to Sand & Salt, an outfitter. They haggle a good bit over the arcana they want to sell, eventually getting rid of the void whips, energy shield, and “metal death” in exchange for armor, weaponry, and some transportation (two mules and a wagon).

Before leaving town, they also hire a mercenary, Emma Tumble, to help drive through the salt flats and badlands, then watch the caravan while the group heads into their next delve. She comes across as knowledgeable about the region and doesn’t particularly care to stay in one place anyway. Penny in particular seems glad to meet her and maybe even make a friend. The locals tell them a few rumors about some of the other potentially-interesting locales:

  • There’s a shattered tower up northwest of here. Somehow the top half hangs in the air.
  • Somewhere to the west out in the salt flats is an ancient tavern made of glass. I heard that, if you have a drink there, you’ll never go thirsty again.
  • Oh, Baldwin? I know there are a couple of retired treasure hunters living there. Dunno why they’d live in that place, the Baldwins keep an iron grip on the place.
  • If you go out in the salt flats, watch out for demon winds chasing their prey.

Considering their leads, they decide to head to the oddly-shaped tower built of connected spheres down south and set out across the salt flats. That night, as the sun goes down, they see a campfire a few miles away. Roland decides to scout it out and finds a small caravan of three wagons plus horses. One person remains on watch; they don’t seem to present a threat.

During the night, though, they hear a whistling wind across the desert. The salt has whipped itself into a frenzy and approaches them; it looks quite localized. As it heads toward them, they can see it more clearly: some round-ish floating object is surrounded by whirling sand and debris. Emma tells them this is the fabled “demon wind”. On a hunch, Penny uses her Tyrant’s Rod and commands it to stop: she has correctly deduced that this danger does in fact have some mind at the center of it, and it works. Roland pushes through the salt and shoots the bluish, splotchy globe at the center, which ends the “demon wind”. Once they get a closer look, they realize that the globe actually is an automaton of some sort: ancient mechanical life wandering the desert. ((See the next section for more on this.))

In the morning, shortly after they get back on the trail, they pass the other caravan: traders heading to Duskburn with a load of food supplies. The two groups exchange friendly greetings and a bit of intelligence about local bandits, then proceed on their respective journeys.

Later that day, an actual salt storm (much larger than the small winds they faced overnight) comes up on them, and they use the tents and wagon canvas to fashion a small shelter for themselves and their mules. Slow going, but better than than getting shredded by the storm!

Game Design

I generated the map using Hex Kit by Cone of Negative Energy. I still struggle a bit with the label system, but in general this tool does everything needed. As a bonus, they include Linux binaries, which means no need for me to use the family game computer for prep.

My basic approach to designing Duskburn consisted of thinking ahead about where the players would need to go: rest and resupply, plus hopefully find some buyers for any oddities (arcana) they didn’t want to keep. So I made notes about the major NPCs in town: the three town elders who govern it, a local source of rumors (including a potential competitor who they didn’t meet), and the innkeeper. From those, I created the inn and outfitter locales, trusting I could make up the rest as needed.

Pricing the arcana proved difficult. The automaton head fetched a high price to indicate its potential utility to the buyer and foreshadow what it could represent. The rest only got a few gold each, though the Metal Death had a bit more value than (say) void whips. For comparison:

Gold Guilders (G) are worth one-hundred Shillings. One Guilder gets you a good horse, a wagon, or a valuable piece of jewellery.

Into the Odd page 20

I also wrote a d8 rumor table based on the other ruins in the area. A basic sense of what each locale contains or looks like will suffice for this, because then the group will decide where to head for the next session. Just-in-time dungeon design, I guess!

Assuming we’d get through the town and have at least some travel, though, the wilderness needed encounter tables. As Chris McDowall suggests for Electric Bastionland, these have 6 possibilities on them; some of them can represent the same thing but with a different reaction (e.g. I had two versions of the caravan encounter in the salt flats). One of the encounters should present a significant danger, but the others don’t necessarily have to imply a fight. Environmental dangers like the salt storm that ended the session work well on these.

The “demon wind” actually came from the Falling Maw in Numenera.

“Falling Maw” by Lee Smith, , TM and (c) 2014 Monte Cook Games, LLC

Falling Maw (STR 14, DEX 2, WIL 6, HP 4, d6 Wind Blast)

  • Effectively a tiny singularity with minimal intelligence that pulls in solid matter
  • Sounds like a whistling wind
  • Wants to consume (throwing mass at it can sate hunger)


The group enjoyed the shopping more than I’d expected, probably because that gave them a chance to interact with human NPCs instead of the weirdness in these ancient ruins. The Demon Wind fight also gave them some fun, both when they realized that the Tyrant’s Rod would work and then Roland getting to one-shot the thing (rolling max damage and then having the enemy fail its STR save will often do that!).

For the next session, I will have completed the notes on the dungeon they will enter. The regional map needs some extension as well, mostly to the south and west. I don’t expect they’ll complete that dungeon in one session, though they could surprise me, so the next recap will come after they do so I can write more about its design.

Numenera and its logo are trademarks of Monte Cook Games, LLC in the U.S.A. and other countries. All Monte Cook Games characters and character names, and the distinctive likenesses thereof, are trademarks of Monte Cook Games, LLC. Content derived from Monte Cook Games publications is © 2013-2019 Monte Cook Games, LLC.

One thought on “Those Who Came Before – Session 3

  1. Nice report. Not much to say other than I enjoyed the mix of narrative and mechanical recap. I’ll be checking out the rest of the series now.


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