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Saturday 7 October 2017

The After-Effects of Adventure

As its title suggests, The Bridges We Burn - A Numenera Adventure is a scenario for use with Numenera, the roleplaying game published by Monte Cook Games. Set in the far future of the Ninth World, Numenera saw adventurers—clever Nanos, wily Jacks, and mighty Glaives—exploring and using the wonders of the past to learn their secrets and benefit the peoples around them. As well introducing player-facing mechanics and an ever changing supply of mostly single-use magic items or ‘Cyphers’ to play with, Numenera essentially presented a new way in which to run and play Dungeons & Dragons-style adventures. Numenera proved to be the hit roleplaying game of 2013, win the 2013 Origins Award for Best RPG, and receive numerous supplements. Although a self-published adventure, The Bridges We Burn is a sort of sequel to Monte Cook Games’ mini-campaign, The Devil’s Spine, in that it takes place in the same city of Uxphon, with its maze-like canyons of towering pipes, which stands to the north of the Steadfast. The Bridges We Burn can also be run as a sequel to The Devil’s Spine in that when it opens, the player characters are being feted as heroes—presumably the heroes who overcame The Devil’s Spine.

Designed to be played with Tier 3 characters—so they need to have more than a few adventures under their collective belts—The Bridges We Burn can be best run with access to The Devil’s Spine for possible context of the player characters’ previous adventures and The Ninth World Bestiary. Primarily though, the scenario requires that the Game Master consult the core rulebook for its information upon the city of Uxphon and of the Convergence, the rogue organisation who investigates and uses the technologies and devices of the past to its own benefit, which therefore puts it at odds with the Aeon Priests. It is the Convergence that triggers the events of The Bridges We Burn when they attempt to kidnap a beautiful young noble woman from a ball in Uxphon. It is at this very ball at which the player characters are being recognised as heroes and so when it comes under attack, they are of course expected to live up to their reputations—leap in to save the ‘princess’, and so on.

Thus begins the action and intrigue in The Bridges We Burn, a lengthy adventure which takes place over five chapters and which should provide a group with many hours of playing time. Even before the action begins, there is plenty of opportunity for roleplaying and interaction as they navigate their rough hewn ways round the manners and attitudes of Uxphon’s high society and make preparations for the ball itself. Following the ball and the attack upon it, the adventurers are asked to investigate, to determine who was responsible and quite possibly rescue the kidnapped young woman. This involves tracking the miscreants and their hideouts down across the city before following the clues out to the Convergence’s secret hideout in the wastes to north known as the Fields of Death and known to be the breeding grounds for the dangerous cragworm.

Yet if the adventurers manage to track down the Convergence cell and rescue the kidnap victim, there is still one very, very big threat to be dealt with—and it comes right out of the blue. At least for the player characters… Not only do they have to determine its cause, they also have to find a way to stop this threat, a threat that cannot really be killed. There are ways to deal with it though and the scenario provides several of these, but this requires getting a fractured city and its various factions to co-operate, so the adventurers need to put their social and the physical skills to a lot of hard work before the scenario’s big rousing climax.

For the most part, The Bridges We Burn is a straightforward scenario. Capacity is provided for some slight deviation, though not much, and the Game Master will be on own his should the players deviate too much from the plot. Yet that plot is well supported and covers most options within its scope. Each of the chapters and its various scenes is nicely supported by suggestions for Intrusions from the Game Master and advice for the Game Master. The latter includes advice for running each of the adventures as separate chapters, but this involves a bit of work as they are tightly interwoven.

One thing that some players may find missing from The Bridges We Burn is a physical reward for all of their efforts. Other adventures might offer actual artifacts—better cyphers—for their continued adventures, but here the rewards are more social ones. There is the possibility with these rewards that the player characters might become much more involved in the future of Uxphon. This might become interesting and important with the new rules for the forthcoming Numenera Discovery and Numenera Destiny books that make up Numenera 2.

The Bridges We Burn is a 6.9 MB, one-hundred page, full colour PDF. Both the artwork and the NPCs are given in separate appendices which allows the Game Master to use the former as handouts and access the latter for ease of use. The artwork varies a little in quality, but it does illustrate many elements of the adventure. There are no maps though, so the Game Master either needs to draw his own or run them the adventure without, which is possible as the scenario is written. It is in need of an edit in places, but these are minor issues to be fair. The appendices include a full breakdown and description of the scenario’s various chapters.

As written, the beginning and the end to The Bridges We Burn are more interesting and more involving than the chapters in between, but those do a good job of getting the player characters from one to the other and getting them involved. This should not detract from what is a tough scenario which should provide a challenge for its players and their player characters.

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