Jade Colossus: Ruins of the Prior Worlds is the latest supplement for Numenera published by Monte Cook Games. It’s a different sort of game supplement, at least in part. The titular location, the Jade Colossus, is one big dungeon delve which is a very important addition to the game line as Monte Cook Games itself has published many of those for Numenera. The other part of the book, though, is what I’m more interested in: an engine for generating ruins from previous worlds. Come for a quick run-down of what each part is like.
The Colossus Itself
So what is this “Jade Colossus” on the front of the book? The short answer is that it’s a new, mysterious adventure location in Navarene. This massive structure of unknown material and origin just appeared five years ago by the city of Ballarad and is a great way to start a new campaign. With the massive labyrinth of the Colossus on the city’s doorstep, an adventuring party could set up in Ballarad and spend years venturing inside to map the interior, gather the mysterious midnight stones made of void matter, and in the process stumble onto strange chambers inside the structure such as an alien armory or an eerie museum.
To facilitate a campaign centered on the Jade Colossus there are a few new game options (summed up in the one-page Chapter 2). GMs using the Colossus as a centerpiece to their campaign can choose or roll for randomly-generated threads to put the relic front and center. Another interesting option is rolling randomly to determine the opening scene of the campaign. Meanwhile, newly created characters who will be interacting with the Colossus frequently can use a specialized connections table in lieu of their character type’s, with backgrounds that connect them to the Jade Colossus itself. In Chapter 4 there are four foci presented: Delved Too Deeply (repeated from Character Options 2), Has Three Hands (with an extra floating hand made of the Colossus material), Speaks in Exaltation (for Colossus-worshipping zealots), and Taps the Void (for sorcerous midnight stone powers). There are two organizations to join (a cult of the Colossus called the Heritors and guardians of the structure called the Jade Protectors).
The city of Ballarad and the area outside of the Colossus are detailed in Part 2 of the book and the interior of the Colossus is featured in Part 3. There’s about ten pages of different ruins found throughout the Ninth World that make for interesting campaign seeds and at the end of the book there are also several creatures to populate the Jade Colossus with new dangers. All of these combine to create real dungeon-delving opportunities for Numenera and this is an important expansion of the game as few game supplements really went the route of old-school gaming modules and maybe your group has been missing that.
As I said before, though, all of this is really just foreplay for the part I’m most interested in.
The Numenera Ruin Mapping Engine
Let’s start with details of this section. Chapter 16, the engine, is 46 pages, about a third of the entire book. It’s intended to work as a generate-as-you-go means of randomly creating a Numenera-style dungeon with tables on tables on tables. This is much like the tables at the back of the Dungeon Masters Guide but with even more permutations. It’s all a little twisted together so the best way to explore might just be to try it out.
You’ll need dice to get started with this process as well as paper and pencil to sketch things out. You start out with a specific chamber in mind, probably an entrance or a teleportation chamber, from where your players will begin their journey through the ruins. I don’t have any place particular in mind to start so I’m going to roll to randomly generate an Exit and a Corridor to begin. The starting chamber has just one exit, according to my roll, with a passage that extends just a short distance.
To find out what lies at the end of that short corridor I roll on the Main Feature table, in this case getting “Explorers” which the table tells me is detailed on page 106. Flipping there I see that the explorers here are located in a (rollroll… 68) chamber and that there are (rollroll… 2) two (rollroll… 8) nanos in there. I can sub in some NPCs from the Bestiaries but I’m alright with just a generic nano for the moment. As for what’s happening in the chamber, it’s (rollroll… 41) a group with some creature in tow that they treat as an oracle. Flipping to the Creature table I can figure out that this is a (rollroll… 53) nalurus from the Ninth World Bestiary. Lastly, the chamber has (rollroll… 15) two extra exits.
If the party decides to go to the right they’ll find (rollroll… 15) a passage that slopes up to (rollroll… 18) another corridor which leads to (rollroll… 53) a chamber that is (rollroll… 12) 30 ft across and (rollroll… 20) triangular. It has (rollroll… 20) a floor that is electrostatically sticky and will trap explorers and (rollroll… 16) three total exits with one of them sealed by a force field.
If the group instead decides to head to the left, they’ll find (rollroll… 5) a corridor that runs twenty feet until it (rollroll… 16) slopes down to a (rollroll… 36) chamber that is (rollroll… 9) 30 ft across and (rollroll… 8) square. This chamber has (rollroll… 35) nozzles that periodically spray the chamber with water vapor and (rollroll… 2) no additional exits.
And on and on. The process is really simple, although there’s a lot of page-turning, and it certainly generates environments that are heavily-laden with all the Numenera fun times you’ve come to expect. One thing that’s missing from this process is the story behind the ruin but things can get weirder and more colorful with other tables so you can construct your own myth in the process, but you can also steal ideas from your players to generate a background for your ruin. You can also just run with the weirdness and leave the creators and purpose of the location as a mystery. Effects are usually level 5 unless they’re listed as something else but the engine is also missing directions for scaling up or down threats. This is probably alright for the Cypher System as it’s pretty flat but something about the engine that seems like it’s missing.
The Jade Colossus is a packed volume with tons of resources for your campaign. It gives some options that can let you take your Ninth World campaign in directions that haven’t been readily supported yet. It’s also a rich collection of random tables, something that can serve to jumpstart your imagination and keep from getting stuck along ruts. This is something that Mike Shea at Sly Flourish talked about a while back and I think about it a lot.
This is just a toolbox, though, which means you can use the pregenerated examples for your campaign or you can give yourself some new inspiration to create your own adventures. This isn’t going to let you cut corners, in fact it might turn out to be a lot of work getting used to it, but in practice you can create fantastic dungeons for your players to delve.