Noble Pursuits is the first adventure session in Numenera’s first expansive adventure setting, The Devil’s Spine. Having just completed the adventure with our group, I wanted to offer some thoughts and insights for others who are about to run the adventure. This is by no means intended to be an exhaustive, in depth review of the events. Rather, I’m offering up the thoughts, ideas, and issues raised specifically from our session running it. Yours can and likely will differ in places.
Note: If you are a player, and you don’t want things spoiled, then I would recommend NOT reading any farther. I’ll be talking about specific events and interactions that will otherwise be ruined for you.
One of the first things that worked out very well for the group was that we started Noble Pursuits just after wrapping up the last core book adventure Three Sanctums. The reason this works well is because Uxphon is just east of the Scorpion Sanctum, making it a pretty natural destination for the players after concluding that mission.
Another good tie in is that your players likely found some cyphers and artifacts during that mission that you can use to drive them towards Om the Orsbergian. Plan ahead, and he can be used to hook the players into this adventure in a way that makes sense for the group. Hopefully you have a good sense for how your players’ group is aligned (for instance, my guys defined themselves as “shady as hell”), so just tailor your hook accordingly. The book offers several, and it’s likely one will fit, maybe with some minor tweaks.
Personally, I’m not a fan of the “hired as guards” style hook, mostly because I don’t find it realistic. A wealthy noble isn’t going to hire a group of guys off the street to guard his home and belongings, especially when he has crazy dealings happening right under the floor. Just my personal preference when gaming though.
My group opted for the “Tichronus has some good shit hidden in his house, let’s steal it” hook. So this applies to GM’s running a similar situation. As far as the book description goes, the home doesn’t appear to be walled for protection to any degree, but it does seem to be set into an area with a cliff on one side, and some sort of hillside on another, leaving it in a bit of a corner. This should make it difficult to do much more than a frontal approach, and in our case, the open side was patrolled by guards.
The pipe along the northern cliff was the route that they took. This makes pretty good sense, especially since the size of the pipe would imply a reasonably good space between the far side of the pipe and the cliff face. To make this a little more difficult, feel free to trap or otherwise put sensors or monitors on that back side so that they can’t just run right up to the house.
Next, think about how your players will breach the house. Nanos, or other people with means of flight will probably find the second story to be an appealing method of entry, and they’re probably right. Odds are, they’ll end up going into one of the two bedrooms on the east side, if that’s the case. Play with that as you may.
Obviously, there are a lot of other ways to get into the house besides this. There’s nothing wrong with walking right up and just trying to “talk” their way past the guards and knocking on the front door. In our case, they went in late at night, and basically caught Dorial in his bedroom half dressed and entirely unprepared. That made sense for this case. Also, they punched him in the face.
Searching the House
First off, let’s just understand that the slaves should barely even factor in here. They’re huddled in the kitchen, there’s nothing of interest there, and if they hear people ransacking the house, they’re not likely to put up a fight. If anything, this is just a good chance for a comical scene – three slaves, beds on the floor, in pajamas, holding up pans for defense. They are unlikely to know anything about Tichronus’s dealings, aside from maybe noticing someone being brought in who never left. But they can be an emergency last resort to keep players on track if one of them spied on Tichronus and saw him in the library using the panel.
The book outlines most of what’s worth finding depending on the room. The key is getting them into the library and finding the button panel. Dorial can be helpful here, especially if you have a nano in the group that is second tier and has the mind reading ability. More than likely, Dorial knows of the panel, but not the combination.
A Woman’s Fearsome Heart
Let the players get to just the brink of frustration with finding nothing in the house and not being able to make headway with the combination. At that point, it’s a great time to introduce this complication. Especially interesting is how the players respond to the door knocking. They can (and probably should) pretend to be in the employ of Tichronus (if they aren’t already). Lady Isaltha doesn’t necessarily have any way of knowing they aren’t, certainly not at first. But keep them honest, the interaction should go quickly, and the PCs need to think on their feet, otherwise it should be obvious to her something is up.
If they deny her access to the home, you can certainly have them break down the door as the book describes. But there’s also no harm in having them gain access the same way the players did, if they came in another way, such as through a second story window. This would also likely prove a useful clue to her party that the PCs aren’t what she thought, and could change their interactions accordingly.
The main things to remember are:
- Don’t let the PCs kill Isaltha, she’s really the key to getting past the combination unless you want to just have Dorial know it, or have a note planted somewehere for them to find.
- If by chance they do kill her, it might be worth saving that little nugget to come back and haunt them later.
- Her guards should put up a good fight if needed, and can give her a chance to use a cypher or something else to subdue the PCs.
- I made her very willing to deal with the PCs, because really she’s being shady just like them (at least in our case).
The Egg Chamber
By this point, getting into the chamber shouldn’t be hard. If the PCs left Lady Isaltha’s guards alive, they can be very useful at this point too for the GM. More than likely, Lady Islatha won’t go down herself unless forced to. At any rate, once the situation deteriorates in the chamber, be sure to close off the chamber – whether it happens on its own or she closes it and takes off. You don’t want players with the ability to fly to be able to get out easily. Also, if flight is proving frustrating for infecting players with the defenders, use a GM intrusion.
If the PCs aren’t being Prometheus enough with the eggs for your liking, as mentioned, the guards can get too curious for their own good. Another option if you aren’t using the complication or the guards aren’t available/willing to go down – a slave from upstairs might get a bit too curious about the hole and fall through, landing in an egg patch. Point being, there are a lot of ways to get the ball rolling here.
Hopefully I’m not the only one that sorta feels like the Lily is a retreading of the Beale of Boregal – that is to say a vague consciousness trapped inside a machination of sorts that uses telepathy. At any rate, you might feel the need to juice this character up a bit, otherwise she’s basically just a deus ex machina to get the players easily through the next part.
The Ancient Underground Complex
One thing I liked here, and will probably end up using in other games, is the exploration chart setup that was provided for the complex. That made for a nice way to provide a bit of flavor to the walk through the area, without the need to be super detailed or map-focused through the ordeal. This is especially true if the players are without The Lily, and are wandering on their own.
This complex also vaguely reminds me of Parlainth from the game Earthdawn. I could very easily see expanding this setting as a location for the players to return to from time to time, whether just to go numenera hunting, setting up a base camp, or because of other ties it has to The Ninth World.
The resolution of the adventure takes place once the players arrive in Devola’s lair. There’s not much action to be seen here, unless the players are foolish enough to attack Devola. Hint: encourage them not to. Unless your players are already nearly tier 4 or higher, odds are they don’t stand a chance against Devola. Plus, it’ll force you to rework the transition into the Insidious Choir. Not to mention what it means for players infected with Defenders.
In the end, this is the decent start to the book. The players aren’t likely to get too beat up, and they get introduced to some nice game elements. I liked the Show ‘Ems, though my one complaint is one of greed: I want more of them. For instance, it seems a bit arbitrary that we have one for the egg chamber, but not the underground complex. There’s one for Devola, but you have to show the players the book for them to see The Lily. I know that’s a function of artwork costs and whatnot, of course. Hence it’s a complaint of greed on my part.
If you include the complication brought by Lady Isaltha, consider ahead of time how you expect that to resolve. The book doesn’t do a great job explaining what should happen with her and the guards should the players get involved with them. If they don’t confront them, they can observe them, get the combination, and you can have them leave in frustration, finding nothing. But if the players confront them, you’ll have to do something with them as a result.
The adventure itself resolves a little anticlimactically, in my opinion. That’s not necessarily bad, but you might consider it if you players are somewhat used to running into something big and mean at the end of a session to fight. Devola is big and mean, but she’ll almost certainly eat them alive in a fight.
Have you read Noble Pursuits yet, or perhaps ran it as a GM or player? Feel free to share your thoughts down in the comments. We’d love to hear them!