Archaeology Today

Image (c) 2013 by penfan

The Monte Cook Games setting/system Numenera describes a truly ancient Earth where nine great civilisations have risen and fallen over millions of year. These civilisations are by no means the only ones; they’re the significant ones, the planet-shakers and the star-sculptors. These civilisations fundamentally manipulated and changed the world around them – or engineered the stellar landscape; or, messed with life at a sub-atomic level; or tinkered with temporal physics… Suffice to say, they screwed the place up.

In their midst, other lesser civilisations did their bit, lived their lives, and left their mark. However, only the greater civilisations imprinted their existence on the world with any great permanence or prominence; the Numenera is the rubbish they all left behind, the fragments of their presence. Like our own unrecyclable detritus, the previous ‘worlds’ have left their mark in the churned rubbish and non-biodegradable debris.

Would Davokar be much different?

The Symbarian Empire MUST have been a big deal.

Surely the Symbarian Empire was a significant thing that might rival the Roman Empire of our own world?

The impact of Symbaroum on the land created enough waves to wake the Elves to the need for an alliance to subdue the sorcerous powers. Davokar, as a solution, seems significant enough an artefact of that action. The Symbarian would not have confined themselves solely to the towers and laboratories that now lie buried beneath the bark and loam, surely?

We don’t know how long the Symbarian overlords reigned – presumably, we’re not talking about big periods of time here; but, why not assume they hung around for thousands of years, rather than hundreds. Or is that too much to expect from a civilisation in this game? Everything else, aside from the Elves, feels somewhat ephemeral.

If the Symbarian Empire existed for so long, would it not have expanded far and wide? The sorcerers and battle-mage of the Symbaroum must surely have made their mark on the greater stage of the world itself? They created slave races to tend to their lesser needs and gathered lore from far and wide in their pursuit of power.

If they were around for thousands of years, just how much “rubbish” did they leave behind? How many artefacts remain, telling of their one-time presence and twisted pursuits? How many dumps and landfills lie beneath the forest blanket of Davokar?

What We Leave Behind?

I have touched on “Dungenesis” in earlier articles – the upswelling of Symbarian constructs from beneath the ground, like architectural tumours. Dungenesis arises from the emergence of pseudo-living structures created through the wrong sort of magic, towers and crypts imbued with corrupting energies, which burst forth from the ground, unpredictable and destructive. Dungenesis is to unliving structures, as abominations are to the living – twisted apparitions of Symbaroum’s presence returned to the light, however briefly.

On a lesser scale, how much archaeological evidence did the presence of Symbaroum leave on a wider world?

It seems to me that, like the Roman Empire, the forces ranged against the Symbarian people ultimately pushed them back into the core of their territory. Davokar equates to about the same area as the United Kingdom – and a thousand years ago that was not enough space to keep a monarch happy. The English kings (and queen) who stood before their armies and sallied forth against an enemy took their battlefields far and wide. The Crusades saw travel into the Middle Eastern territories, thousands of miles away.

Wouldn’t the warrior-mages of Symbaroum have done the same?

Treasures and Artefacts

Davokar serves as a concentration of Symbarian artefacts because the empire rose and fell in the land beneath where the forest now grows. However, it would be interesting for treasure-seekers to range further afield and find evidence of the sorcerers.

Greater and lesser treasures of the lost Empire might turn up almost anywhere, as now we find Roman remains scattered far and wide. Like Numenera, it would be interesting to find distant lands changed, influenced or misguided by corrupting artefacts of the Symbaroum Empire. Thousands upon thousands of miles from the heart of their one-time existence, strange and corrupting powers persist without context.

It makes for interesting possibilities around the use of an ability like Loremaster, which might seem to have limited potential outside the range of Davokar’s boundaries. Someone steeped in lore could prove very valuable in tracing the heritage and influence of Symbarian presence far afield.

More Than A Grail Quest

Like Numenera, following this line of thinking provides uses for tables like those included in Adventure Pack 1, but with even more emphasis on trinkets and traces. The passage – outward and in retreat – of the Symbaroum Empire will have left rubble and remains not so far from the surface that the curious would not find them. The studious will dig, as will the industrious seeking to create and building new homes and industry. In turning the soil, whether as a scholar, farmer or entrepreneur, each has the potential to find some remnant of the past.

The curious might follow a trail or seek out news of a find. A diplomat sent from foreign climes might present the Queen with a trinket that on face value appears only expensive, but in closer study obviously Symbarian in origin. It would be wrong of the Ordo Magica not to pursue the source of such an item, the bearer lacking any more knowledge that a rough point of origin.

Of course, curiosity will be tempered with concern or even fear. In the hands of a distant nation, what threat might a remnant of the Symbaroum Empire represent? Also, given the knowledge of the Loremasters, concerns must exist around the safety of these trinkets and treasures, given the tendency of Symbarian ruins to leak corruption.

Strange Remnants (1d20)

  1. A rune slashed anklet of golden metal that emits a slight electric charge
  2. A palm-sized coin that becomes more valuable in the presence of corruption
  3. A lens upon which a page of text appears faintly imprinted, in reverse
  4. A square of resilient cloth that changes hue with the passage of the year
  5. A leather left-handed glove laced with filigree of gold
  6. A wooden shaft that will not burn
  7. A narrow-necked crystal phial containing glittering sand
  8. A horse-hair brush that smells faintly of honey
  9. A string of eight links, all composed of different coloured metals
  10. A map sketched on flayed skin that constantly changes with alarming fluidity and inaccuracy
  11. A bucket helmet that echoes with the sound of distant conversation
  12. A poultice of unidentified herbs that always feels unsettlingly warm
  13. A twig statue of a strange multi-legged beast that sings in pitch darkness
  14. A gorget of flayed Elf skin laced with pale golden hair
  15. An empty bottle that, when uncorked, repeats an unintelligible phrase
  16. A needle of black stone that, when cold, emits the sound of a single child crying
  17. A tall, thin candle that, while unlit, smells of rotten flesh
  18. A rope of woven green bark, sticky with dark resin
  19. A slim metal blade that won’t rise above knee height
  20. A disk of pale blue glass impaled by a finger of speckled blue stone

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