As I continue to write my Numenera campaign, The Paranoid Automaton, I took some time out to playtest the newest location created for the campaign. I recently ran players through Xenthropa, which is a devastatingly hostile environment filled with horrific creatures (and cultures) located in the Caecilian Jungle of the Ninth World.
Although I’ve barely written anything for the Xenthropa book, I have a rough outline of the land, creatures, groups, belief systems, NPCs and villains that was detailed enough to do a run through of my ideas with some playtesters.
The campaign is structured so that there are numerous locales that players can choose to travel. With Xenthropa, it would seem the less likely of the five places that PCs would choose to explore, when compared to the other choices. My solution to this problem was to balance it out by luring PCs to the location by NPCs inferring that the location may lead directly to a valuable clue and resource that would quickly lead to one of the campaign’s goals (I’m being vague here as not to spoil the game too much).
Throughout the Xenthropa playtest, the players were exposed to the elements of the jungle including a never ending rain storm (difficult level increases), virus pools (which made 1 PC insane), carnivorous amphibian like creatures, giant wooden automaton creatures, savage and grotesque tribes and beautiful, wondrous underground caverns where forgotten horrific beings dwell.
Given the harsh environment and creatures of Xenthropa, the group was given a choice of three guides to which they chose Quazerdale, a veteran glaive who had some experience in the Caecilian Jungle and most importantly had dealings with one of the many powerful groups of Xenthropa, namely The Twisted Emperors of the Savage Steel.
The automaton emperors live in, and claim western Xenthropa, the deadliest region of the realm. Their kingdom lies in what they call the “Garden of Evening,” where mutations of plant life and other life forms take shape at twilight in a toxic swamp of the emperors’ own making. The players first encounter with the garden are screams of anguish and pain. Lucky rolls were made by all after asking for insanity checks once the PCs came upon the origin of the sounds.
The three self-proclaimed emperors are also known for their large slave army, atrocious experimentations and cruel and unusual torture methods for those who oppose them. At this point in the production of the campaign, the emperors are a necessary evil for the PCs since the trio’s scouts and spies afford the emperors valuable information on enemy locations and the safest routes through the West.
Suffice to say, players absolutely hated the emperors and the culture to which they lived by.
The players are introduced to the emperors in an organic palace where the trio sit in three separate thrones in a triangle like configuration surrounding their court.
Kalatamus, a golden steel humanoid automaton, sits in the northern point, is the emperor of pride. The emperor is also known as the King of Slaves, and holds dominance to the countless slaves who suffer under all the emperors’ inhuman care. Standing in attendance in his throne, are humanoid slaves of all ages, who have empty eyes and jump at the sound of anger in their master’s electronic voice.
Vestilence, a humanoid automaton made out of white steel, sits at the eastern point, and is the emperor of greed. The emperor is also known as the King of Life, and is the main architect of the Garden of Evening and hideous experiments which most of the time go awry. Surrounding his throne, are creatures (some who have a slight semblance to humans) who have “evolved” thanks to his twisted guidance.
Skorge, a humanoid automaton created out of copper, sits at the western point, and is the emperor of wrath. The emperor is also known as the King of Limbs, and is known to frequently dismember enemies of the empire or slaves who displease him. Throughout his throne, hang limbs of humans and creatures of unknown origin.