Heroes of Bonespir is the second adventure in my original Numenera campaign, The Obsidian Monolith. You can learn more about this in episode 16 of Game Master's Journey.
Articles in This Series
Companion Episodes of Game Master's Journey
OM 01 - Preparing for an Adventure
OM 02 - Laying the Foundation for your Campaign
OM 03 - Location, Location, Location
OM 04 - Prepping and Running a Numenera Session
OM 05 - The Town of Bonespir
OM 06 - The Windmill in the Woods
OM 07 - Connecting Adventures Together
OM 08 - The Village of the Culovas
OM 09 - The Machine of the Emols
OM 10 - The Conclusion of the Campaign
Actual Play (Audio)
Session 01 Part 1 - The Town of Bonespir
Session 01 Part 2 - The Windmill in the Woods
Session 01 Part 3 - Inside the Windmill
Session 02 Part 1 - The Swarm from Hell
Session 02 Part 2 - Numenera Hunters
Session 03 Part 1 - The Order of Tianma
Session 03 Part 2 - Bugbusters
Session 04 Part 1 - The Man They Called Zain
Session 04 Part 2 - Madame Saydle's Wondrous Soup
Actual Play (Video)
The YouTube playlist includes the first session and sessions 8-12.
This adventure picks up right where The Windmill in the Woods left off. The PCs have returned to the town of Bonespir after dealing with the Windmill one way or another. This adventure assumes the PCs have been successful. If they’ve failed or given up, the GM will have to use her best judgment as to how to proceed. Perhaps she can use various town NPCs to convince (and or shame) the PCs to try again. If the Windmill was too difficult for them, consider having Father Ahn render some assistance in the form of some cyphers that will help the PCs get past the hurdles that kept them from succeeding.
The townspeople are planning to throw a feast in honor of the PCs the next day. The beginning of this adventure presents various NPCs in the town that the PCs might interact with. Any of these NPCs can spill the beans about the coming feast.
The GM is encouraged to run the first part of the adventure as a sandbox. Allow the PCs to explore the town, get to know its people and enjoy their hard-earned fame. Let them relish being the heroes of the town as long as they wish. If the PCs are getting into it (or you think they will), feel free to expand upon the feast itself, perhaps adding events and turning it into a full-blown festival.
If, however, the PCs seem bored with the town, unwilling to engage NPCs, or just want to get on with the adventure, feel free to fast-forward to the moment in the feast when they’re approached by Brast Vel.
A young woman named Aneej Vel has learned the culova language from Father Ahn. She believes the town would benefit from a closer relationship with the culovas, but most in the town are content to stay as far from the strange creatures as possible. Constantly frustrated by the narrow-mindedness of the townspeople, Aneej decides to go to the nearby culova village alone and open a dialogue with their leader.
Aneej left in secret while the PCs were in the windmill (a couple days before the PCs’ return), and she hasn’t come back. Her father, Brask, has guessed where she’s gone and is worried about her. He approaches the PCs during the festivities and enlists their aid. See The Festival for more information.
Heroes of the Town
Everyone in the town knows the PCs saved all their lives, and they’re very grateful. The PCs will enjoy the following benefits indefinitely (as long as they don’t do anything to tarnish their reputations):
Madame Saydle provides them free rooms, meals and drinks at The Loggers’ Rest. She’s not afraid to cut off a PC who’s become too drunk, however and serve only water or tea.
All local merchants will sell basic goods to the PCs at half price.
All local merchants will buy basic goods in good condition from the PCs at ¾ price (as opposed to the usual ½)
Various parents in the town are likely eyeing the PCs as possible spouses for a son or daughter who’s come of age. If the PCs remain in town and seem like they will settle down there, they have offers of arranged marriage from these parents.
The festival consists of three days of feasting and contests. The GM is encouraged to go into the festival in as little or as much detail as works for her particular group. Some of the contests include foot races, swim races (in the canal), Wondrous Soup eating contests, various drinking games, scavenger hunts, wrestling matches, archery contests, etc.
Allow the PCs as much time as they like to enjoy the celebration and their new status as heroes of the town. As long as the players are having fun, keep rolling with it and feel free to ad-lib generously. This is a great time for PCs to get to know some of the NPCs in the town.
If any of the PCs have romantic inclinations, it will not be difficult for them to find willing partners, whether for a short encounter or a more long-term relationship. The people of Bonespir are practical when it comes to sex, and they don’t consider what happens behind closed doors between two consenting adults to be anyone’s business. People of all sexual preferences can be found in the town.
Once the GM feels the PCs have had enough of roleplaying the festival, she can move to the encounter with Brask Vel.
If the PCs succeed in their mission without destroying the tower, Father Ahn is impressed. Any PC who is not already a member of the Order of Truth is offered membership by Father Ahn. He will send the PC’s paperwork to Qi. From this point forward he will identify one numenera item they find per week for no charge. Father Ahn is also now available for a PC to gain as a full-fledged Contact for 3 XP (a long-term benefit).
If the PCs destroy the tower, then Father Ahn does not induct them into the Order at this time. They’re a little too reckless for him to risk his reputation by vouching for them. He will also not offer to identify numenera items for them. However he will still be available to gain as a Contact with 3 XP, but any PC who wishes to do so must first roleplay getting a bit more in his good graces and/or perform another task for him.
A perceptive PC who succeeds at a difficulty 1 perception task notices that Father Ahn seems upset about something. If asked about it, he explains that he’s heard news of the Order’s continued campaign against the Gaians. If engaged in conversation, he explains he lost his post in Charmonde for speaking out against the crusades and organizing protests. He mentions the irony of this, as he’d just discovered a possible way to greatly aid the city, but now for all he cares the bastards can rot.
If the PCs are particularly sympathetic (or are able to convincingly pretend that they are), and/or at least one of them has expressed a desire to gain standing in the Order, he is willing to share his idea. [This is a possible hook into the Astraphin Monolith adventure.]
Brask Vel’s Missing Daughter
Brask approaches the PCs during the festival, at a time when they’re the center of attention and he is sure to be overheard by many (perhaps just after the PCs have given a speech or responded to a toast in their honor by Madame Mayor Anica).
He speaks in a loud, booming voice that carries over the crowd easily. He extols the PCs’ virtues and calls them brave heroes. He then asks their help, explaining that his daughter, Aneej, left town two days ago to seek an audience with the culovas. She hasn’t returned, and he’s worried about her. With such a captive audience, it will be hard (if not possible) for the PCs to refuse him and retain their town hero status. Once the PCs agree, Brask is willing to discuss the details more privately. He gives the PCs a description of his daughter and mentions that she wears a necklace that is a wooden carving of a bird on a leather cord.
If the PCs do refuse and can’t be convinced by Brask, the other people of the town, Father Ahn, Madame Saydle, or even the Mayor (they’ll try), the people of Bonespir lose their enthusiasm for the festival, and it ends prematurely as life returns to normal. The PCs likely get the cold shoulder from most of them, although townspeople they’ve gotten to know merely seem disappointed. Then Aneej returns on her own a day or two later, injured and a sweaty filthy mess. Her leg crudely splinted by herself, dragging herself along as she can’t even crawl. She’s dehydrated and suffering from heat exhaustion. The PCs will find their reputation in the town reversed as everyone glares at them, silently blaming them for the poor girls’ condition.
In this case the Bloodfeast Tick incident happens that night. The PCs may get a small amount of redemption in the eyes of some of the townsfolk if they help defeat the tick, but many will at best think it a case of “too little too late”. At the very least Brask will blame the PCs for what happened to Aneej, and more and more people will come to agree with him as he shares his sorrows over many a mug of ale. The PCs will find the town increasingly inhospitable to them, and their fringe benefits as heroes of the town will be nothing but a memory (even Madame Saydle will start demanding payment for their rooms and meals).
The Search for Aneej
The culova village is a 4 hour hike from the logging camp. If the PCs are confident in their ability to operate the tugs, they’re free to use some to speed their way. Otherwise Brask and some other lumberjacks will volunteer to shuttle them to the camp as soon as they’re ready to go.
The PCs will be able to stock up on supplies (within reason) free of charge.
There is not a trail per se leading form the logging camp to the culova village, however even though Aneej is accomplished in the forest, she made no effort to hide her tracks, so following her trail is only a difficulty 3 task.
The PCs find Aneej after a two hour hike, about halfway from the camp to the culova village. She is at the bottom of a ravine, in an area of rocks and underbrush, sitting with her back against a tree. One of her legs is obviously broken, her shin bone jutting out of her skin. She lost one of the waterskins in the fall (it ruptured) and the other is long gone. She’s dehydrated and overheated and in shock, but is aware of the PCs and able to speak with them.
Aneej is about twenty years of age and has red hair and blue eyes. She is tall, thin and pale with an athletic build. She is smart, strong-willed and opinionated. She is direct and looks you in the eye when she talks to you. Though she’s serious-minded, she has a good sense of humor if you can bring it out. She speaks culovan and has survival and hunting skills. She is currently dressed in forest green pants, black boots and a dark brown tank top. She is covered in sweat and dirt, with twigs and leaves in her disarrayed hair.
She adamantly wants to continue to the culova village, but is obviously unable to walk. She asks the PCs to help set and splint her leg so she can continue (she can talk them through the process if none of them know how). If the PCs refuse, she asks that they give her first aid, and then proceed to the culovas themselves. She insists she’ll be fine on her own until the PCs get back, if they’ll just leave her with some water and rations.
If the PCs insist on taking her back to town, she begs them to go to the culovas afterward and do their best to form an alliance between them and the people of Bonespir. She knows if the PCs take her back, her father won’t let her out of his sight until she’s completely healed.
Depending what the PCs decide to do, this can go a few ways. The GM will have to use her judgment how to proceed, keeping in mind the amount of importance Aneej places on her self-appointed mission. Here are some possibilities:
The PCs insist on taking Aneej back to town. If so, Aneej relentlessly begs them to go to the culovas in her stead and will not take no for an answer. Ultimately there’s nothing she can do to force the PCs to do as she wishes, but the GM should use all her roleplaying might to convince the PCs (through Aneej) how important her mission is to the town. She will try every tactic she can think of to get them to agree.
If this is the way things go, the Bloodfeast Tick incident will happen once she’s returned to town and falls asleep.
The PCs agree to take her to the culovas. This may happen if a skilled PC can set and splint her leg (although she will have to be carried or dragged on a litter). This will be an agonizing journey for her, and should be worried for her safety as the possibility of the injury becoming worse or infected is very real. This could also happen if one of the PCs has the Works Miracles focus and is able to heal Aneej. In which case she will ask them to come with her, as she’s come to realize why it’s such a bad idea to travel in the wilderness by yourself.
In this case they arrive at the culovas village she makes her case eloquently to the culovas in the presence of the PCs. The culova chief says she must discuss it with the elders and invite the visitors to stay the night to receive their answer in the morning.
The Bloodfeast Tick incident will likely happen in the culova village, when Aneej goes to sleep.
The PCs will be able to earn further points with the culovas by helping defend their village from the tick. After the battle, they can wrap up Aneej’s negotiations in her memory.
The PCs could leave Aneej in the woods and continue on to the village themselves. If the PCs are leaning this way, the GM should be sure they understand how dangerous the West Wood is, especially at night, for a lone human who can’t even stand on her own. This is a pretty despicable option to take, and the GM should make sure the PCs know it.
In this case the Bloodfeast Tick incident will happen the first time Aneej sleeps after the PCs rejoin her.
The Culova Village
The PCs are entertained by culova singers—three females who sing a melancholy song (about tragic, lost love) and dance a strange dance that only a culova could manage.
The culovas have a tribal culture. They are led by a chief and the elders of the village. The chief is chosen by the elders.
Culovan huts are built into the trees, either into hollowed trunks of the redwood trees or in the branches of smaller trees. The huts are constructed of various materials, including wood, leaves and spider silk. Human visitors are given freshly made hammocks of spider silk to sleep in.
Culovas brew a drink called coovska. This drink is made by the males of the village, who sit around a large earthenware vat chewing insects and certain sweet and sour fruits. The males spit into the vat. This is what is then fermented and made into coovska. Coovska is around 40% ABV.
Culovas applaud by clicking their mandibles together.
The culova language is composed of shrieks, hisses, clicks, and gestures with their front four legs, two arms and hands, and mandibles. These complex gestures are impossible for humans to make, so the version of culovan that humans learn is akin to how culovan toddlers speak. This has a lot to do with the culovan perception that humans are dim-witted, simple-minded and childlike, as they tend to sound little better than idiots when they speak culovan. Culovas also see humans as weak and fragile because they have no exoskeletons.
Humans tend to see culovas as monstrous, horrific and savage.
Culova females eat their mates after fertilization occurs. There are no old culova males. Culovas choose their sex when entering puberty. Most become female. Males fertilize as many females as they can before getting caught and eaten. Age is a sign of status among males, representing how many females they’ve evaded. Females gain status based on how many males they’ve eaten. The female must eat the male immediately after fertilization in order for her to provide the needed nutrients to the eggs she will lay. If she doesn’t eat the male, her eggs won’t hatch. The males have a much stronger sense of smell than the females and can smell if an egg is fertilized or not (the females don’t believe the males’ claim to be able to do this). Males love to eat unfertilized eggs, considering them quite tasty. If the male escapes the female’s immediate and overpowering, yet brief, hunger, he is in no further danger from her.
Culovas love their families and friends. Romantic love is a concept culovas understand and experience, but during mating instinctual urges are impossible to resist. Because of this, mating is seen as both tragic (because if successful it results in the death of the male and the possible heartbreak of the female) and beautiful (because it leads to new life) in the culture. Because of this most females try to be distant and detached with their mates, and the males try to win the females’ affection and love. Even though the males know that the female’s feelings will not affect the outcome, deep down they hope they will.
Because of this romantic love is idealized and romanticized, and culovas love stories of couples who somehow overcome the mating paradox and the female somehow avoids eating the male (and yet somehow still lays viable eggs), even though no one knows of anyone this has actually happened to.
If the male avoids the female, it almost always spells the end of their relationship, as the female will resent him and blame him for the death of her children (culova females are as heartbroken by their eggs not hatching as a human female is of a still-birth).
Because of the true love myth in culovan culture, culova females guard their eggs, even when the male escapes, in the hopes they will hatch anyway. Male culovas know better than to try to tell a female her eggs won’t hatch.
Culovas have very sensitive hearing, hearing frequencies both above and below the human range.
Culovas highly prize skill in weaving and knitting, which they use brightly dyed spider silk for. The artisans of the village produce beautiful goods of woven cloth that are brightly colored and intricately patterned. The culovas pride themselves on the quality of their cloth goods and the speed with which they can make them. The artisans of the village are very interested in trading their works to the humans, as they consider their creations far superior than anything humans can make (and other than textiles produced with numenera devices in some of the large cities, they’re correct).
Culovas are very active, needing little rest. They only rest a few hours each day, not exactly like mammal sleep, but similar (they’re still aware of their surroundings in this state, but remain completely motionless—culovas don’t blink and their eyes never close). They enjoy contests of physical speed, strength, balance and agility.
Culovas don’t have any metalworking knowledge or skill, so metal goods wood be an obvious choice for a good humans could trade to them.
Ississ - Speaks the Truth
Culovan Chief. She wears an ornate headdress and train of woven spider silk which is the badge of her office. She is intelligent and wise. She is a cautious culova who is always seeking the best for her people. She is open to a closer relationship with the Bonespirans, seeing the obvious advantages to both peoples.
The Bloodfeast Tick
If the GM would like to impress upon the players the danger of the West Wood, she may choose among the following example optional encounters.
Ravage Bear family
The PCs stumple upon a pair of ravage bears and their three cubs. The two adults attack immediately. The cubs will flee if approached and will only attack if cornered. They are as ravage bears but level 2.
For less challenge, only one ravage bear, and flight is possible (it’s less aggressive since not defending cubs).
See the Numenera corebook page 254.
The PCs are attacked by a pack of 1d6 vapes. This should be an easy encounter.
For more challenge have a group of 4 vapes attack as one (Level 3, 4 damage).
For even more challenge have 6 vapes act as a swarm (Level 4, 4 damage inflicted).
See The Ninth World Bestiary page 131.