Review: Into The Deep

Today, I intend to begin my skim-over review of the Into The Deep sourcebook for Numenera. This, for those unfamiliar with it, is one of the relatively recent Kickstarted sourcebooks for Numenera; it delves into the depths of the oceans of the Ninth World, much as Into The Night explored some of the cosmos and how Into The Outside will explore the extradimensional realms appended to Earth.

First off, of course, we have to go over the Table of Contents; in MCG products this generally gives a nice overview without digging too deep into the material. For this book, we’ve got four sections: Near The Shore, Out To Sea, The Unfathomable Deeps, and Creatures of the Deep.

I don’t know about anyone else, but the first and second parts are ones I’m glad to see. The Earth is a powerfully active planet in tectonic terms, and even a billion years from now the core will only be cooler by about 55 degrees Kelvin; there will be volcanic islands out there even after the neo-Pangaea of the Ninth World happens, to say nothing of seamounts, corals reefs, and the bizarre relics of the prior worlds masquerading as islands.

Part One is broken down into the Island of Undoing, the Drowned City of Cle, the Nullified Harbor, and Joria; impressive names for those first three, with plenty of promise of mysteries and wonders. Part Two is broken up into the Coral Cathedral, the City of Rust, Niress, and the Skelirroth Fleet; of them, the Cathedral piques my immediate interest, if only to see how coral-like this future is. Part Three is broken up into the Squamous Coliseum, Minifera, Morenel and the Fallen Tower, Onisteles, and the Inner Sea. The last one strikes me as either a sea trapped by the neo-Pangaea or possibly some kind of subterranean ocean beneath the crust. This being the Ninth World, neither would be a surprise. Part Four isn’t divided up; it’s a bestiary for GMs to toy with.

The map in the introduction suggests this book covers an area out to a few thousands miles from the shores of the Steadfast; not a surprise, as the additional material tends to stick fairly close to home and leave most of the Ninth World open to GMs to develop for their own games. There’s also a bit of advice for GMs looking to introduce their own weird creatures, which is fairly good advice – plants will be near the surface where they can get sunlight, but plant-like animals dwell in the depths; marine life tends to be predatory, particularly if it’s large enough that you can see it; things near the surface are social, but in the depths they tend to be solitary; and the deeper you go, the weirder things yet. Let me assure you, on that last point they definitely are not kidding.

They include a short bit on surviving in the ocean; in addition to needing to handle not being able to breathe, you have to be able to handle pressure, the drag of water when you try to move, the lack of light and distortion of sound, and the cold. There’s also a bit on regions of the Deep, including the Shallows, the Gloaming, the Deep Dark, and the Abyssal; only use these around marine biologists if you want to give them a giggling fit when you explain what you mean. There’s also the Beneath, which covers the really deep ocean trenches and possibly the planetary crust and upper mantle.

More interestingly, the oceans are apparently threaded with a maze of low-pressure high-oxygen corridors, which permit creatures from the Shallows to wander around the depths as if in their normal habitat; even air-breathers can safely travel these passages, as the oxygen level is apparently high enough to let it be breathable. Don’t wander out of them if you’re too deep, unless you’re looking to be crushed into jelly. This follows up with a nice little equipment list, including survival gear, weapons, and armor; given how sparse the gear listing in the core book is (I mean, who can expect people playing a game about made-up things to make up their own equipment?), the list is nice and kind of entertaining; the metallic paint-on claws are a clear winner.

Last up in the introduction, we have advice on GMing under the sea! Things they recommend thinking about include the difficulty of communicating underwater, limited visibility, the way that cyphers and artifacts may behave differently or not work at all when immersed, the way that most deep sea creatures respond to these weird creatures from the surface, playing up the weird (look at that link again if you need help, seriously), and the strange forms that GM intrusions can take underwater.

Next time, we’ll actually head into the sourcebook proper, starting with the area on the Shallows!

Review: Into The Deep

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