Continuing the review of Into The Deep for the Numenera system and setting today, we’ll be heading Out to Sea, where octopi dwell along with other, stranger beings. Given that octopi apparently responded to the return of humans to Earth for the Ninth World with, “Oh. It’s you again.” I don’t doubt that this should be interesting.
The very first part is the Coral Cathedral, and they tell you straight up that there are two things here that are likely to draw attention from both PCs and NPCs. The first is a kind of stone that self-repairs over time, which has rather obvious benefits; the second is a longevity drug that effectively grants immunity to aging and death by extreme age.
The Coral Cathedral is exactly what it sounds like; a massive structure of cultured coral, with a sphere of coral that floats freely over the building. Pressure, lightlessness, and cold are problems, and octopi aren’t particularly welcoming creatures, so players had best come prepared for the challenges.
Octopi, having conquered aging, have little patience for short-lived creatures like humans. They’re literally lived through the prior worlds, with a history extending clear back to our own time. As such, much of their distaste for humanity stems from regarding dealing with us as being similar to communicating with the spark from a fire – short and ultimately futile.
Octopi can be played up fairly effectively as a dose of the Cthulhu Mythos; with their biotechnology and the ultraterrestrial technology they use, coupled to their distaste and disinterest with human affairs, they can make excellent otherworldly and aloof foes. With shapeshifting materials, the ability to create empty space as a weapon, and rods that can boil or freeze targets, they’re a very effective and terrifying foe, too.
Additionally, if you wish to introduce alternate dimensions, the Cathedral is home to two passages to alternate realities – one is a universe of water-like liquid that constantly churns and rolls, known as the Roil, while the other is the realm where the strange self-healing stone can be acquired. Neither is easy to access, and the latter is likely to be destroyed if the octopi suspect it has been compromised by non-octopi.
The City of Rust is our next stop; it’s a nice place that has a holy cold war going on between the priests of the city’s gods and the atheistic leader known as the Russet. It’s a great place if you want an underwater campaign with intrigue, politics, and the like; between the first chief priests of the gods, the teenage Russet, and the Russet’s advisor/keeper, there’s plenty of factional tension going on.
Of course, that’s not all that’s going on. Those priests are the ones watching for signs of unrest from the four mechanical gods around the city, each of which are ancient artifacts that can wreak absolute havoc among the population if not dealt with. Whether or not the priests are right about the rituals to calm the machines down, they’re the best chance to keep the city safe – unless some enterprising characters can get close and see about examining them without raising an alarm.
Disease is a major concern in the city, due to the nature of the oxygen-bearing liquid that fills the interior of the city that strips the lungs of any natural protective coating. Mutants are unwelcome in the city because they’re seen as being harbingers and bearers of disease; if the mutations happen to be due to some weird super-tech prion, this might well be a legitimate concern.
The city’s native inhabitants are six-limbed and sit somewhere between dolphins and penguins in appearance. They’re a playable option, and are amphibious, have a natural Speed Edge, and are trained in a host of numenera-related things. On the down side, they’re susceptible to disease and they’re not good at fighting.
Niress is the third stop in this section; it’s essentially a gargantuan iceberg maintained by ancient technology, hollowed out into a frigid island that slowly drifts on the ocean currents. While this would be interesting enough in and of itself, the ice is full of blots of darkness known as frozen cores, where things of interest are locked into a frigid stasis. Niress gives good indicators early on of being a stasis vault from lost ages of the world.
Unnaturally cold temperatures, a heat-draining field, and the occasional icequake are among the challenges explorers have to deal with in Niress. Of these, natives only have to deal with the icequakes; the same machine that keeps the intense cold in place and saps warmth in spite of protections actually protects those native to the ice mass, allowing silvery plants to flourish in the ice and providing the base of a food chain full of shaggy-furred beasts.
The natives are mostly known as the Estathin; they regard the numenera devices of Niress as divine, and the ancient machine that maintains their home as a god. Bearing a working artifact as one of the Estathin marks one as one of the god’s blessed, a wise person to be listened to. The other intelligent race on Niress are the omaths; regarded as devils by the estathin, they’re essentially beings who were normal sapients at one point who were frozen into high-tech coffins of ice that sustain their minds while serving as their new bodies. This might be an intriguing idea for most PCs, were it not that the process essentially hybridizes their mind with an overlay of omath knowledge and culture, effectively killing the original creature and creating something new. That said, the sheer survivability of the omath might intrigue people. Feel free to let them, as long as they understand what being an omath means.
The frozen cores are likely of interest to almost anyone, and the man reason that explorers would find to come to Niress. Estathin regard them as holy shrines; omath see them as prisons keeping danger at bay. Regardless, you can essentially stick anything you want in the blobs of black ice, which either require a special key to open, or the ability to shift out of phase to pass through the crust.
That’s it for today; I’ll pick up with the last of the Out To Sea chapter’s points, the Skelirroth Fleet, in the next entry.