Digging up the Future

Published July 8, 2014 by in For Gamemasters


While intact vaults, prior world ruins, and deliberately buried machines are the more impressive remains of the prior worlds, there are many other interesting sub-terrain features generated by the rise and fall of civilization over millennia. Between the wastelands of the surface and whatever machinery rumbles away near the mantle, there is a wealth of possibilities for GMs to explore.

For a start, even without the meddling of terraforming, quantum manipulation and pan-dimensional rifts, the continents we know will have shifted over 15,000 miles in a billion (and change) years. So what once may have been buried deep has the potential to end up emerging from cliffs, erupting from mountains, bubbling up from the sea bed, swept into the open by desertification or revealed by a plethora of hydrological forces.

As to what could be under there; if you take our limited Anthropocene era as a comparison, we already bury roughly 10,000 square miles of landfill around the world every 50 years (which is adjusted by population growth). So what could several vast civilizations over a far greater timespan leave lurking in the dirt? Here are a few samples areas of symptomatic geology in the Ninth World that can be used as unique adventure locations, discoveries or even as treasure.

(when creating one of these locations give it a level (1d6+1) to represent overall value, difficulty and danger the site represents)

Nanite Hives

Masses of tiny machines metamorphosed into quartz veins, lattices of glass obsidian and mica, or beds of siliceous sponge. Rare ‘ghost’ hives hold powerful Nano-spirits captive in crystal, encased by time and geological action. Those dangerous strains entangled with prior world energies affect their environment in odd ways. To certain parties, these mineral prisons are of incalculable value; whether for experimentation or darker purposes.

Ghost Hives can be harvested with appropriate tools at a rate of 1 difficulty task per 18 hours. Active crystals extracted from a ghost hive can be considered oddities or anoetic cyphers with powers appropriate to their hive.

Ghost Hive Examples:

  • Ethereal – manifests odd fragments of the Datasphere in light and sound.
  • Hungry – absorbs and stores nearby exothermic energy from any avaliable source.
  • Corrupt – slowly reshapes organic and inorganic materials it touches.

Ancient Landfills

Partially fossilized conglomerations of prior world detritus, broken machines and other oddities. Older landfills have long since become seams of coal threaded with rare trace metals, but others are much as they were when first buried. Worked landfills are often termed Scrap Mines and are exploited for the oddities, cyphers and even artefacts they yield. Needless to say, these sites are far from safe; at any moment rusting trash can lash out with exotic energies, insane machine creatures might erupt from the walls or long sealed gas pockets transform tunnels into raging infernos. Even without these hazards, decaying numenera devices attract all sorts of exotic Ninth World vermin that soon infest untended workings.

Scrap Mines can be scavenged with appropriate tools at a rate of 1 difficulty task per 9 hours. All oddities, cyphers and artefacts recovered from a Scrap mine are of the ‘scavenged’ type, and can be either anoetic or occultic, all artefacts found at these locations have a quirk.

Scrap Mine Examples:

  • Active – working mine filled with paid miners or enslaved creatures.
  • Unstable – abandoned, collapsing mine, filled with aggressive monsters.
  • Spurned – mine overflowing with trash and claimed by a Spurn gang.

Contaminant Dumps

Long forgotten waste from prior world industry can last for millennia, and some of the stranger ultra and extra wastes may never truly fade from the world. Waste in semi-fluid forms can eventually fracture its containment due to increasing geological pressure, making them easier to locate but often less harmful. Solid waste is usually better able to withstand shear forces over time and remain encased, making them harder to find but more likely to remain lethal. The few deadly legacies of the prior world that remain dangerous to this day are commonly termed ‘Tombs;’ something of a dark joke considering the fate of those that stumble upon them.

Tombs can be scavenged with appropriate tools at a rate of 1 difficulty task per hour. This renders anoetic detonation cyphers of the ‘scavenged’ type, roll twice on any cypher danger events involving these cyphers and take the worst result.

Tomb Examples:

  • Poisonous – heavy metal gases or sludge trapped in wells, fissues and reservoirs.
  • Pathogenic – viral or transgenic agents deemed harmful enough to be sealed away.
  • Irradiated – heavy monolithic blocks, emitting exotic energies fatal to organic life.

Ultra-terrestrial Deposits

Bizarre accretions from universes with different physical laws concreted into the crust, encased in geodes or dispersed in porous clouds. Whether merged with the stuff of our universe by a freak trans-dimensional event, or representing the bleed off from a weakened universal membrane; these pockets range from the benign to the bizarre. Those deposits that contain ores, rocks or even living creatures with remarkable properties are termed Cysts; due in part to the common bubble-like nature of the formations and the tendency for some to grow over time.

Cysts can represent a resource extractable with heavy industry or numenera aided mining, but don’t normally render artefacts, cyphers or oddities that can be easily scavenged.

Cyst Examples:

  • Cryptous – quasi-material substance that slows the temporal flow in its vicinity.
  • Chthonian – incredibly dense, dark material that creates areas of high gravity.
  • Primeval – living silicon based flora/fauna inhabiting a unique otherworldly biosphere.

Cataclysm Seams

Remnants of ancient urban sprawl laminated into bedrock by some vast destructive force. Although of the older ruins are only recognisable by the highly trained eyes of Aeon Priests, many materials were built to last millennia of the harshest treatment. The more substantial cataclysm seams are categorised as Vestiges in the terminology of the Order of Truth. Some of the more famous diggings in the Ninth World fall under this category, the floatstone quarries of Milave are a prime example of an Alt-stone rubble vestige. Equally valuable are the unique biomes that have flourished over centuries of isolation in the polluted melange of water tables flowing through crushed tunnels, even rarer are the trace minerals from advanced power systems and transport networks.

Vestiges can represent a resource extractable with heavy industry or numenera aided mining, but don’t normally render artefacts, cyphers or oddities that can be easily scavenged.

Vestige Examples:

  • Sporiferous Bloom – fungoid gardens spawned in crushed remains of prior world sewers.
  • Crystalfire Line – crystalized superfluid infrastructure that still retains some of its power.
  • Alt-stone Rubble – compacted building stone, glass or ceramics with odd properties.

These and more are potential locations to add flavor to the Steadfast and beyond. For Ninth worlders, the future is always closer than you’d think.

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