The Obsidian Monolith Campaign for Numenera 05 - The Machine of the Emols

The Machine of the Emols is the fourth adventure in my original campaign for Numenera. In this adventure the conflict between the humans and the culovas comes to a head. You can learn more about this in episode 19 of Game Master's Journey.

TM and © 2014 Monte Cook Games, LLC

TM and © 2014 Monte Cook Games, LLC

Articles in This Series

01 - The Town of Bonespir
02 - The Windmill in the Woods
03 - Law & Order in Charmonde
04 - Heroes of Bonespir
05 - The Machine of the Emols
06 - The Town of Delirium
07 - Exploring the Obsidian Monolith

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.

Opening Scene

It is a hot summer day in Bonespir, with the type of humidity you can almost reach out and touch with your hands. A visible misty haze hangs in the air, somehow resisting being burned away by the blazing sun.

It has been two weeks since the festival and the unfortunate incident with the monstrous tick-like creature. Life has returned to normal, or what passes for it in this strange little town where people reek of garlic, onions and other unnamed, yet potent, spices.

You’ve found a bit of shade beneath one of the towering, fossilized ribs of some unknown ancient beast, for the only thing worse than the hot heavy air outside is the stifling heat indoors. You fan your sweaty face and neck in a vain attempt at relief, wishing nature would send a real breeze through the town. You try not to notice the smell of your companions, like you, sweating in the heat. Perhaps you’d all benefit from a bath—a cold bath, or at least a swim in the Fellwood. You hear Kairdric talking to a gallen he’s trying to break to saddle at the nearby Loggers’ Rest stable.

You find your gaze drawn to the Westwood in the distance, wondering if in the shade beneath the trees the heat might be more tolerable.

A patch of thick smoke rising above the treetops catches your eye, a black smudge on the horizon. Could it be a forest fire, or something even worse? Whatever it is, it’s too close to Bonespir for comfort—perhaps a day’s walk away.

A few Bonespirans, like you seeking respite in the shade beneath the bones, have noticed the smoke as well. They murmur among themselves, their faces betraying alarm.

If the PCs don’t immediately go to investigate the smoke, they are summoned to see the mayor. She informs them that a merchant entered town the other day claiming that the smoke is from the Black Smoker of the Emols. He also told her of their bounty on culova heads. The mayor is concerned about this for numerous reasons. She asks them to investigate the strange machine in the Westwood for her. She tasks them with getting the Emols to agree to honor Bonespir’s claims and their new peace with the culovas.

Canal Description

The warm, stagnant water of the Heartsblood Canal doesn’t provide much relief from the heat as you slip in and grab hold of a numenera tug. The tug pulls you at a good pace down the canal. The strange metal sides and bottoms of the canal give the water a silvery look. Mosquitoes and other insects swarm around, but they keep their distance from you thanks to Madame Saydle’s Wondrous Soup.

Westwood Description

The trees of the Westwood tower above you. As you’d hope, it is somewhat cooler within their shade, but the air is still and thick. A breeze would do wonders. The air is filled with the smell of pine, drit and wildflowers, and the buzzing and whirring of insects creates a constant background that rises and falls and changes in timbre, but never ceases. The great redwoods tower overhead, many of their trunks more than large enough to be turned into a culova dwelling without harming the tree. Among them grow smaller trees, though anywhere else one would remark on their size, but the redwoods dwarf them. Thanks to the thick canopy overhead and the seasonal burnings by the culovas, the forest floor is free of undergrowth. The ground is carpeted with pine needles and rust and earth-colored leaves that fell last autumn and are slowly becoming one with the earth. The small amounts of dappled sunlight that penetrate the canopy make the forest seem a constant twilight of greenish-yellow light.

Westwood Encounters

It will take at least one day of travel from the logging camp through or along the Westwood to get to the machine. The GM can have the PCs encounter some danger if she wishes, or have the travel go without incident. If the GM wishes to add an encounter, choose something from either the Woods or Jungle or Plains or Desert table on page 18 of the Ninth World Bestiary (depending on if the PCs are going through the Westwood or along its outer edge). Possibilities include pallones or murden.

The Black Smoker

The machine is decorated with culova heads.

The PCs could handle this situation in a number of ways. They could attack the Emols and try to disable or destroy the Black Smoker. They could try to talk with the Emols and convince them not to log in the area and to stop hunting culovas and paying bounties for their heads. They could try to be sneaky and disable or destroy the machine without conflict. Or they may come up with something different entirely.


If the PCs decide to fight (or if a parlay turns into a fight), they will have a difficult battle ahead of them. Captain Horrek will defend the machine to his death, and he won’t make any deals. He follows orders, and until he gets new orders from Charina Emol, he does as he was instructed—he defends the machine and makes sure it keeps logging. As long as he’s alive, the soldiers fight to the death as well.

Horrek and the soldiers will do their best to disable or kill the PCs if it comes to a fight. If the PCs flee, Horrek will send a few soldiers in pursuit if he thinks they have a good chance of catching the PCs. He will not leave the Black Smoker with less than six soldiers guarding it.

If a fight breaks out, the foreman, mechanics and technicians will not seek out combat. However, they will defend themselves if attacked. If the GM wishes, the foreman and/or mechanics may attack the PCs if they try to damage the machine (they’ve worked really hard to keep the thing running after all), but they won’t do so if it seems likely they’ll be killed or seriously hurt.

The two nanos will attack the PCs using their numenera devices and esoteries if battle ensues. As long as the captain is alive, they will fight to the death.

If the captain is killed, the PCs may be able to get the rest of the soldiers to surrender (this would require a social roll of some kind versus the soldiers’ level, perhaps intimidation, diplomacy, etc.). If the soldiers surrender (or the captain and all soldiers are killed) then the others will no longer fight and will surrender (including the nanos).


Nathaniel Durr is a reasonable man and could be convinced to allow the PCs to sabotage the machine. Charina Emol knows that the thing is always breaking down, and he’s hopeful he could avoid suspicion. However this isn’t a possibility as long as Captain Horrek is in the picture. Durr fears Horrek and knows that he has undying loyalty to Charina Emol.

It is a similar situation for the nanos. As long as Horrek and the soldiers are around, they will fight. However, if Horrek is removed from the situation, they no longer care. They’re just in it for the money, and as long as they can be convinced that Charina Emol won’t learn that they stopped fighting, they won’t stand in the PCs’ way.

The mechanics and technicians just do what they’re told by Captain Horrek and the foreman.

The soldiers will be a little bit more difficult to deal with. Even if Horrek is eliminated, they may be loyal to the Emols and/or they may fear the consequences if they let the PCs destroy or damage the machine. The GM should roleplay the soldiers as she sees fit. If they’re frightened enough of the PCs (especially if most of them have been killed), they may agree to their terms. A lot depends on how convincing the PCs are and what kind of deal they want to make.

Loot: 4d10 shins, 2d6 cyphers

Cyphers to include (rest are random):

Transference Beam – Sir Arthour’s Guide page 94

Power Siphon – Sir Arthour’s Guide page 80


Foreman - Nathaniel Durr. Decides where the machine will go. Top dog. Level 3. Foreman will fight only if PCs get to the machine. Uses a crowbar.

4 Mechanics/Operators. Level 2.

4 Technicians. Level 2. Mechanics and technicians will fight only in defense of their own lives. They will use whatever is at hand for a weapon (clubs, tools, knives).

Officer - Captain Horrek. Leads the soldiers. Level 5. Armor 3, Health 25, Defense 6. Armed with sword, bow, chainmail. The officer and soldiers will fight to the death. The others won’t.

2 Nanos. Nanos have battle cyphers and one has an artifact. They will fight.

Neko Wyre. (Numenera page 271) Level 3. Health 15, resist mental 4, long range attacks, other cyphers, one has an artifact. Pyroclastic staff (3) (Sir Arthour’s Guide page 129).

Other nano has Spine Armor (8) (Sir Arthour’s Guide page 135). Her stats are as the Nano on page 271 of Numenera, only +3 to Armor.

12 Soldiers. (Numenera page 272) Level 3. Health 12, Armor 2, Damage 4, Perception 4. Armed with spears, swords, chainmail and bows (modified town guard from Numenera).

Upcoming Adventures

Voyage to Charmonde

On Top of Mount Zanlis

Inside the Ausren Woods

Delirium and the Dream Sallow

Constance and the Rescue of Sir Arthour

The Obsidian Monolith