So, over a year ago ( about the last time I posted here, *zing* ) I saw a really neat item on io9: a concept art writing prompt. They’d post up a weird image, and basically challenge their readers to expand on the idea – create a short story or something along those lines.
The moment I saw it, I knew I could use it in the Numenera game I run. Numenera is a tabletop/pencil/paper/dice roleplaying game that really focuses on keeping things weird. I ended up tweeting the picture and a super-short version of what happened, and a number of people seemed to dig it. There was of course more to how the encounter played out in-game, and more that the players didn’t get to explore.
So, here we go.
First, here’s the io9 entry: http://io9.com/concept-art-writing-prompt-shark-isle-1596634684
And the art that started all this, by Kendrick See: (click image to embiggen)
The background info: This is the “Loach Range” – a green rocky outcrop often found in the desert. It’s a type of numenera called a “Discovery” and rather than poorly paraphrase an already well-written description, here’s the explanation from the rule book:
Discoveries are a catch-all category of numenera that don’t fit into the other categories. These are not devices the PCs can claim as their own. The characters probably can’t take a discovery with them, and usually they would have no reason to do so, anyway. A discovery might be a bio lab where genetically engineered creatures are still being artificially produced, a receiver that picks up signals transmitted from a station on Mars, or a still-functioning hovertrain. While these discoveries can be useful, they do not necessarily make the characters more powerful.
This particular “device” was initially designed to cull down a rapidly-growing and invasive species of flying hybrids long ago. It was originally much more active when it was needed, now it mostly rests in the ground for days at a time, saving energy for when it needs to feed on whatever it may find in the air. It tends to stick to somewhat-regular feeding routes, but has changed those areas over the millennia.
It is also home to a lush forested eco-system. Any number of creatures may be found there at any given time, but like ramoras, it sees to have developed a symbiotic relationship with Golthiars – a defensive humanoid creature of woody muscle and barklike skin:
In this encounter the characters were told that in the morning there was a caravan heading towards the Tithe River, which could then take them to where they needed to go. The meetup location was the resting Loach Range. To them, it just appeared to be a nice respite from the desert. So they camp, have an encounter with some Golithar, and one of our newer players learned that fighting isn’t always the answer – there were two visible Golithar, and two still lurking on the edge of the woods. Clever girl.
In the morning, the pleasant breeze and oddly pervasive fog were revealed to be clouds (yeah, I know fog is clouds, but the altitude was revealed). When I went from a carefully selected zoom area and pulled back to the full image on my tablet, there were some actual “oh!s”, “ooh!s”, and “neat!s” – was pretty satisfying. The realization that they were already on the “caravan” was pretty neat to see.
Eventually, it landed again for a rest after a long round-about trip, and the term “as the shark flies” was created.
If you game, I hope you can use this. If you don’t, I at least hope you thought it was neat or at the very least, didn’t suck.