Creature Preview: Pyronic Sentry

Here’s a preview from The Sun Below: City on the Edge, available now on While the creature hails from a Numenera adventure, it’d be right at home in The Strange as well.


Art by James E Shields
Art by James E Shields

A pyronic sentry is a synthsteel- and glassteel-cladded automaton whose color changes to match the flames it finds itself in. It looks like a massive armored man with long blades for hands.
Motive: Follow orders to guard a place or a thing.
Environment: Pyronic sentries are usually found near fires, lava pits, or other hellishly hot environments.
Damage Inflicted: 5 slashing and 5 heat.
Armor: 3 (100 vs. heat)
Modifications: While being almost invulnerable to heat, cold attacks gain an asset and ignore armor. In fact, if a pyronic sentry is removed from a fiery environment and placed in a temperature comfortable for a human, the automaton will become sluggish and have a one-level penalty on all its actions. Should one end up in a frigid environment, it would take a two-level penalty on all actions and take one point of damage a turn until it shattered into pieces.
Combat: A pryonic sentry will follow its orders first, and worry about self-preservation second. Usually the orders do not require it to move to cooler locations.
Interaction: Pryonic sentries do not speak, but are telepaths.
Use: An arch-nano’s synthsteel tower rises out of a lava field. People say the arch-nano hasn’t been seen in years, but the pryonic sentry still stands guard, stopping good folk from taking valuable items from a woman who surely doesn’t need them anymore.
Loot: Once cool, the remains of a pryonic sentry can be salvaged for 1d6 cyphers and possibly an oddity.

TiersThe Pyronic Sentry’s GM Intrusion is designed to challenge any tier party, from tier one to tier six. Stats are presented in three groups, separated by /s. The first stat is for tiers 1 and 2. The second for tiers 3 and 4. The last for tiers 5 and 6.

GM Intrusion: The pyronic sentry teleports an enemy who is at short range or  closer to just in front of the automaton. The sentry then attacks as level 7/8/9 with both bladed hands, doing double damage and dazing the foe for one round if it hits. The foe will also take heat damage from the environment if the pyronic sentry is in its usual searing environs.

You teleport into the flames and feel the searing-hot bladed hands of the automaton spike deep into your body. Your flesh sizzles like meat on a spit.

Notice how the GM Intrusion flows from the creature’s description? Bring on the searing heat! You can do the same with your own creatures, see Numenera GM Intrusions: Creatures.

Have fun, and there plenty more creatures to be found in The Sun Below: City on the Edge‘s bestiary!

Using Fronts in Numenera and The Strange

Ever notice when you’re reading a great book or watching a great movie or TV show how tense everything gets? You are on the edge of your seat because the characters you are rooting for are under tremendous stress and the stakes are sky-high.

How do you bring that to your game?

CoverOne trick I use is called “fronts,” a concept I stole from the dungeon bashing game called Dungeon World. Like Numenera and The Strange, Dungeon World is rules light and focuses on story telling. Its aim is to create great stories of heroic adventurers in a medieval fantasy setting without the rules getting in the way. Here’s an online version of the rules.

While the game mechanics aren’t at all like the cypher system, the use of fronts to create tension comes across beautifully. A front is a set of problems (called dangers) that will only get worse if the player characters don’t solve them. There is usually more than one danger, so while the PCs work on one, the others fester and grow worse. This forces the players to prioritize and make hard choices.

Throw in multiple fronts, each with their own dangers, and watch the PCs sweat!

Here’s an example I call Bantion, Village in Peril.

First I have to choose between a campaign front and an adventure front. A campaign front is a big, long running front. Say how The Convergence (Numenera) or Lotan (The Strange) are going to devastate nations.

ruinsA shorter term front is an adventure front, and Bantion, Village in Peril is an adventure front. The problem with Bantion is that it is built into ancient ruins. Yes the ruins provide shelter and a source of cyphers or magic, but they also provide the dangers. The village could be in The Beyond or the hinterlands of Ardeyn. To keep things simple I’m going to use Numenera examples, but the basic story elements can work just as well in The Strange.

A front has two to three dangers, so I’ll choose two. Both involve mental powers and villagers acting strange, which will probably confuse the PCs. Yay!

For my first danger I’ll choose a cursed place that wants brains. The Chamber of Unity, deep in the ruins below Bantion, has recently been activated. It seeks to unify people into a hive mind. To do that, it wants everyone’s brains to be taken out and placed in a big soup of nutrients and nanites. It uses mental powers to force people to do its bidding. Those people become angry and emotional.

The second danger will be a nano seeking mental powers. Kavlon the Seeker has found a way to build his mental powers by injecting himself with nanites grown in brainstems of psychic parasites. First he’ll create hosts out of villagers, and then after the parasite kills off the hosts, he’ll harvest the brainstems. A win-win! To create a contrast, the hosts will lose all affect and become emotionless.

OK, we have two dangers, now what? For each danger we come up with 1 – 3 grim portents. A grim portent is something bad that happens if PCs don’t defeat the danger. This way, if the PCs are out fighting Kavlon, the Chamber of Unity will be ticking off its grim portents.

Here are the grim portents for the Chamber of Unity:
1. Villagers vanish (they sleepwalk to the chamber)
2. Scapegoating: Paranoid villagers turn on one another, guards arrest many “troublemakers” (guards are under the influence of the Chamber and deliver the prisoners there)
3. People rounded up en-mass and driven to the chamber

Besides grim portents, each danger has an impending doom that happens if all the portents get ticked off because the PCs didn’t defeat the danger.

For the Chamber of Unity, the impending doom is that the entire village will be emptied into the brain soup. Yay!

And for Kalvon, the grim portents are:
1. Villagers become hosts to the parasites and become affectless
2. Hosts vanish to be replaced by new hosts
3. Mass grave of dead hosts discovered

And the doom? Kalvon’s mental powers become such that he makes all villagers thralls or experimental subjects. Or both. Yay!

How do you GM this? Pick one or both of the dangers and set off the first grim portent. Then just follow the players. While one danger gets worked on, the other ticks off another grim portent.

Have fun.

(For those following along with the Dungeon World rules, the Chamber of Unity is a Cursed Place, a Shadowland. The Doom is Destruction. Kalvon is an Arcane Enemy, a Power Mad Wizard seeking magical power. His doom is Tyranny.)

The Sun Below: City on the Edge – Review on Origins of a Dark God

John-Matthew DeFoggi’s review of The Sun Below: City on the Edge:

“Well worth the price.  The flexibility you get from this supplement is staggering.  The setting is weird and interesting, the adventure is flexible, and the creatures are inventive.  There is enough material here to continue to bring your characters to the world below even after the main adventure has been completed.”

Origins of a Dark God

Disclaimer: This PDF was graciously given to me by John Marvin for review. All opinions within the review are my own.

Thanks to the Monte Cook Games’ limited license, Cypher fans have been treated to a variety of third-party supplements.  It is no surprise to anyone following this blog that I am a fan of Ryan Chaddock Games’ products, as well as Numenera in general.  Metal Weave Games’ books (Ninth World Assassins & Naval Encounters) have been fantastic as well, setting the bar very high in my opinion for new Cypher supplements.  So when the call went out for reviewers for a new Numenera adventure, I jumped at the chance.
The Sun Below: City on the Edge – Review


The Sun Below is a 66-page supplement by Dread Unicorn Games, available for purchase at  The first thing that stands out about this product is the formatting.  The thing looks

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