WARNING: This post contains spoilers for my upcoming Numenera campaign. Players: stay away! This is the first in a series of posts where I describe the genesis of my campaign and what sort of events I'm planning.
In about three weeks, I'm running my first Numenera adventure. Hopefully, it will be the beginning of a campaign. As experienced GMs know, a campaign doesn't require complex plots or even any long-term planning. You just need the player characters, an introductory adventure and things will develop from there. The players will immediately begin to develop their own plans either from scratch or from previous events, and I just have to develop things from there. I could make an episodic campaign, where each adventure is unconnected from previous ones, a picaresque story of sorts, with the PCs wandering the setting, getting into all sorts of mischief. However, I decided to create a connecting thread, something that provides a rationale for all that is going on.
Inspiration can come from unlikely places, and this one jumped right out of the Dungeon magazine pages, namely issue #10, volume II, March/April 1988. It's called Secrets of the Towers. I would hesitate to call this an adventure. Rather, it's a series of short descriptions of the eponymous towers, twelve in all. The premise is that there are twelve magical towers scattered across the world. They are ancient structures (at least 2000 years old) that once formed a quick transport network via magic portals. Now, you are beginning to see how this could easily be transplanted to the Ninth World. The towers become structures impossibly old. The 2000 years become millions of years and the structures true purposes are all but lost in time. They don't even need to look like towers.
Each tower vignette in the article includes a short description of the place (easily expanded) and some antagonist that is also interested in the place. For instance, in tower one, it's an orc shaman leading a band of orcs. Again, this can easily be changed into humans or margr or other abhuman interested in the tower (or, in Numenera, structure).
I'm still collecting my thoughts about this, but already ideas are flowing. The structures are nothing but a mcguffin that propels the campaign forward. What happens in each location or in-between is what's important. Since the towers can be placed anywhere in the world (after all, they are connected by transdimensional gates), I can lead the player characters to wherever I want and drop any adventure in their path. For instance, let's say they activate the portal in tower one and travel to tower two but a malfunction deactivates the gate in this tower leaving them stranded away from home. They can search for a power source for the tower, leading to all sorts of interesting side-plots or return home, which can also lead to all sorts of adventure or any other thing I can think of. I can even place a tower outside Earth or in another dimension. There could also be a number of opposing factions vying for control of the structures.
Does it matter what the towers do or that the player characters are able to find them all or even control them all? Not in the least. As I said, it's only a plot device to keep the campaign going. It's also a source of numenera and even these can be potential story hooks. In the end, what matters is the journey and not the destination.