Today, I’ll be continuing my review of Into The Deep for Numenera, picking up wth the Skelirroth Fleet at the end of the Out To Sea section!
The Fleet is comprised of a set of five massive seafloor dredging vessels; the largest is 6 miles long and half a mile wide and tall, and they’re lined up with roughly 300 feet between the vessels. A massive fleet of repair automatons swarm around these massive machines, performing an endless series of repairs on them. People live in the vessels, occupying the maze-like construction and subsisting on what the dredgers extract from the seafloor.
For the most part, the inhabitants work with the automatons, trying to prioritize those repairs that keep the interior of the vessels habitable. Given that the dredgers have an absolutely abysmal rate of efficiency in their extraction, the inhabitants are constantly running the risk of starving or going without other vital resources; one cult, relatively unpopular, advocates for trying to upgrade one of the dredgers and get more out of the extraction process so that everyone can live in plenty. If you think this would be popular, you grossly underestimate how much people hate the idea of changing the status quo.
Not unsurprisingly, the inhabitants of the Fleet don’t speak Truth; their isolation from the world and understandable focus on survival via maintenance hasn’t made learning from the occasional outsider a high priority. Additionally, given the risk of flooding and assault by the various other humans, vermin, and rogue automatons that inhabit the Fleet, the average inhabitant is likely to both carry a couple of rebreathers and some weapons for self-defense.
Among those vermin are fungi that bite like animals, fish with a nasty bite that can crawl down dry corridors as they look for a way back into the water, and ambulatory slimes that can range from nuisances to major threats; there are also massive shark-like beasts that swim alongside the dredgers looking for a snack flushed from hiding, and amphibious predators that can drive enemy clans of humans to team up to fight them off.
Given all the dangers and the trouble of reaching the dredges, one might wonder why anyone would bother to go down to them; the answer is largely in the extruded materials harvested from the seafloor. Wire of different materials and gauges, colorful synth fabrics, a candylike substance that provides an asset on healing or treating diseases, and Numnera-style duct tape are all produced by the dredges despite their ridiculous inefficiency, in addition to a special material called cuinum.
Cuinum provides an asset on Intellect-based tasks when taken, but in larger doses functions as a narcotic; given the miserable state of life in the dredges, it’s hardly any wonder that the stuff is prized. Given that the suggested reasons for finding the Fleet include the Aeon Priests of the Order of Truth looking for a supply of it as a base for some of their cyphers, you can tell what the most significant treasure here is.
Skelirroth Dredge is home to about 30000 people, with two major population centers and a group that’s looking to claim power over the dredge itself and the Fleet as a whole. Zyeburn Dredge, home to around 20000 people, is full of the fungi that produce cuinum; were it not for that trade resource the dredge would be almost unihabitable, as the food vats are pretty much worthless; as such, Zyeburn is the headquarters for the Trader’s Guild. The Abersheen cult is also based on Zyeburn, who want to find the control and command room for the Fleet so they can figure out how to repair and upgrade the dredges.
The only inhabitant of Iskelorm Dredge is a nano who can talk to machines; he’s on the run from Aeon Priests and paranoid that anyone who visits the Dredge is a spy for them. Iskelorm is also the site of the command room for the fleet, although there are only a few ways to find it; even the automatons that come from the dredge’s churning factories know nothing of the hidden chamber. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the control chamber’s occupant is long dead, although it remains pickled by ages spent in brine. Figuring out the chamber’s secrets would give those who succeed command over a truly powerful set of ancient machines.
And that wraps up the Fleet and the part of the sourcebook! Part dungeon, part mobile city, part treasure trove for rare materials, and part “Look, honey, we found Morlocks!”
We head into the Depths in the next part!