Numenera by Tulul
Dreams of the FutureOriginal SA post
I'm not a big fan of JoJo's, but looking at a wiki it seems to me your guy is straight-up a pure-breed Exile. Growing swords out of ribs, changing the location of vital organs to avoid damage, absorbing dudes into your body and detaching body parts are the very specialties of an Exile. If you want, you can describe the abilities and when we reach the powers I'll try and give examples that relate.
What's the defining difference between Chimera and Exile? They both sound kind of similar, from this. Double Cross also looks pretty great and you got me to order it, so thanks!
Anyway, I figured I would cover Numenera . It has it's own thread, but I think it deserves to be written up here. It has the promise of a fantastic setting, but I feel it makes some missteps, and the rules take a fumbling stab at elegance and end up putting a hole in their own foot. I would appreciate any feedback or the like, because it's my first time trying to write one of these things.
What is Numenera?
Have you ever seen a picture of what I would term "dudes staring off into the horizon"? A picture that promises mystery, excitement, and adventure, right after they get done posing on top of a cliff?
Well, Numenera is Dudes Staring Off Into the Horizon: The RPG. Numenera takes place on Earth a billion years in the future (in the "Ninth World"), and the titular artifacts are all of the wondrous and dangerous things that have been left behind by countless dead civilizations.
Numenera is a game pulled from the dreams of Monte Cook, written by Monte Cook, designed by Monte Cook, and published by Monte Cook Games. It is about as Monte Cook a game as you will ever get. It had a wildly successful Kickstarter and spawned an even more successful Kickstarter for a game in the setting by inXile.
Credited is Monte Cook, Cook's old D&D buddy Sean K. Reynolds as a "rules developer", and Shanna Germain for "additional writing" and as the lead editor. If you don't know who Shanna Germain is, well, neither did I. The book helpfully links her website, though, and uh.
"Shanna Germain is one of those rare authors in erotica who knows how to tell a good story and how to convey a scene of excitement and passion. Many writers can do one or the other. Some of them are able to do both. But there are few who are able to combine storytelling and passion with Shanna Germain’s mastery of the craft." ~Ashley Lister
Dreaming of the Future
Next we come to the somewhat pretentiously titled introduction and are introduced to the uncredited layout editor, Mr. GIGANTIC FUCKING MARGINS.
No, seriously, look at these things:
That is not an economical use of space. It doesn't really justify them, either, mostly putting in some fairly unnecessary page references and the occasional fluff expansion.
The actual introduction starts off by quoting Clarke's Third Law and then with a couple of paragraphs that I want to quote verbatim:
Monte Cook posted:
I’m a dreamer. I’ve had a lot of dreams. But for twenty years, two dreams of mine have stuck with me, no
matter what else I was doing or what I was working on. Projects came and went, but these two dreams
always hovered in the background.
The first was a roleplaying game system where players got to decide how much effort they wanted to put into
any given action, and that decision would help determine whether their action would succeed or fail. This would
be a simple but elegant system where sustained damage and physical exertion drew from the same resource (so
as you became wounded, you could do less, and as you became exhausted, you were easier to take down). Where
your willpower and your mental “power points” were the same thing, and as you drew on your mental resources,
your ability to stave off mental attacks waned. And where it was all so integrated into the character that it was easy
to process and keep track of. But most of all, I dreamed of a game system that was designed from the ground up
to be played the way people actually played games, and to be run the way that game masters really ran them.
The second dream that stuck with me was a world that fused science fiction and fantasy, but not in the usual
mixed-genre sort of way. Instead, it was a place that felt like fantasy but was actually science fiction. Or perhaps it
felt like science fiction but was actually fantasy. Could I achieve both at once? The well-known quote from Sir Arthur
C. Clarke that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” seemed to lie at the heart of
this concept. In my mind, I envisioned strangely garbed priests chanting well-rehearsed prayers and invocations,
using sacred instruments and making precise gestures, but then we realize that the instruments are technological
in nature, and some of the gestures are actually fingers playing over buttons or sections of a touchscreen...
I wasn't joking about this game being pulled from Cook's dreams. Anyway, I'd just like you to keep these two paragraphs in mind. We'll see how the game measures up.
Next he talks a lot about his career and inspirations! That's... kind of it, I can't find anything interesting to write about this, beyond approvingly nodding at his choice of Gene Wolfe and Moebius. We do learn that he's "never been a GM who relied heavily on rules", though, which should surprise absolutely no one that's ever played D&D 3.5.
Then Monte Cook wishes us well and we are into the requisite opening fiction!
The Amber Monolith
The Catechism of Lore:
All glory to the originators of truth and understanding.
Praise to the innovators of steel and synth.
Praise to the shapers of flesh, of bone, and of mind.
Glory to those who re-sculpted the sustaining earth and the life-giving sun.
Praise to the senders of signals, who even now whisper into machine ears and give life to the inanimate.
Praise to those who traveled to the stars, and the realms beyond the stars.
All glory to the originators of truth and understanding.
Let us then resume the recitation of the Sacred Chronicle of High Father Calaval, Amber Pope and Founder of the Citadel
of the Conduit and the Order of Truth, as written by his grandniece, Doroa of the Silent Song:
We join our hero Calaval in Chapter IX: Wind of Iron ( In which we learn the lesson of dedication. ), as he and his thuman (a horse, but not) Feddik are climbing a red, dusty hill towards a gigantic amber monolith. We then get a brief bout of exposition, learning that they're on the Plain of Brick, as the people in the last village they were in called it (herding "shereh" and giving food for "shins"). Calaval thinks they're swell if unimaginative, because a lot of small villages tend to be rather insular and most are dicks to strangers. There are also people called Aeon Priests who know stuff about the numenera and get to tell everyone to stop poking the ancient death machines with sticks. Calaval wants to be one!
Then, oh shit, dust storm!
Then, oh shit , Iron Wind!
The Iron Wind is a gigantic cloud of tiny particles that alters flesh instead of just ripping at it. Calaval notes that he doesn't know whether "particles" is the right word; it could be made up of machines or creatures for all he knows.
Our hero gets down to the business of surviving, pulling out a small handheld device designed to be held by someone with six fingers, that has two exposed wires in a cavity on it's surface. He jams an awl into the exposed wires and it creates a force field that smells like ozone, protecting him and Feddik from the Iron Wind. It also completely numbs his hand, then his arm, making him progressively weaker as he holds onto it.
In the middle of all this, Feddik gets loose and sticks part of his body outside of the field before Calaval can drag him back in. After the Wind has passed, our hero sees that Feddik's left side has been turned into a mass of tendrils, metallic plates, unknown orifices, and eyes.
The nothorse is in massive pain, so Calaval cuts his throat and cries.
Calaval did not curse the gods his mother had taught him, nor did he pray to them for mercy. It wasn’t that he did not believe in vast, nonhuman intelligences living in the sky above—he had see them orbiting in Yessai’s telescope night after night—he just did not believe that they directed events. He believed in cause and effect. Not gods. Even the things inhabiting the datasphere were created, the result of someone’s knowledge and understanding. He believed in the universe and its laws, set in motion billions of years earlier.
Just because the people of this world called it magic did not mean that he could not see beyond. That was what the Aeon
Priests did, and—as hard as it was to accept—that is what he would do too. The numenera, as the priests called it, arose because of the intellect of the people of the prior worlds. It only seemed like miracles.
It only seemed like damnation.
Next, Chapter X! Except not, because it's been lost. The people who are writing this believe it details Calaval's infinite capacity for love, amazing intelligence, perfect memory, astounding wisdom, and it was this long.
Chapter XI, then.
Calaval has reached the Monolith and eases us in with some infodumping. "Cyphers" are a type of numenera that are temporary, one-shot deals. They believe they were once part of much bigger machines and they only work some of the time. Calaval has a mesh belt (not made for humans) that lets him float up the side of the Monolith to a hatch hundreds of feet above the ground. He manages to grab onto the handle right before the belt's power gives out, sending him downwards and dislocating his shoulder. He almost passes out from the pain, but manages to work a lever and barely get himself inside a shaft with a ladder, losing his pack in the process.
Chapter XII has Calaval making the long, painful climb up the ladder. The entire structure is vibrating, and Calaval recognizes the rhythm, thinking that it's the one he had been looking for. When he gets to the top, he uses a match to make sure it's safe, and then collapses for a bit. Then he resets his shoulder, which takes him four tries of ramming it against the wall, and makes me wince in sympathy. After he succeeds, he wanders around for a bit, making a torch out of some machine scrap.
Then he awakens the MECHA-APE (seriously) and there's a chase scene! He goes back down the way he came, the mecha-ape tracking him. He grabs a sharpish piece of tubing, climbs down the ladder, and then jams it into the thing when it comes down after him. This knocks him off the ladder, close to the ground, and he loses consciousness for a bit. When he comes to, the mecha-ape is lying on the ground with three feet of scrap in it's chest and is still alive, but dying pretty fast. Calaval wants to mercy-kill it, but has no idea where to stab it, and it could kill him if he gets close, anyway. So he just sits in the dark and thinks about his nothorse until the mecha-ape dies.
Chapter XIII! Last one. After it dies, he cuts the mechanical bits apart to take some scrap pieces with him, particularly it's glowing eyes so he doesn't have to keep lighting matches anymore. He starts back up the tower, moving more slowly, and sleeps for a little while. After he reaches the top of the 23rd shaft, the vibration reaches it's peak, and he figures he's found the heart of the machine.
There's a giant blue cylinder floating in midair and Calaval starts looking around for a way inside. He eventually finds a door in the machine, with an access panel nearby. Trying to pry it open with his knife just snaps the blade, so he pulls out a gravity gun he cut out of the mecha-ape and rips the panel off the wall. He fucks around with some symbols for a while, opens the door, walks in, and is suddenly IN SPACE, aboard one of the stations he used to look up at.
Calaval hopes to find an AI and ask it some questions, and then it's the end of the story. It is reiterated that he's Future Science Jesus and that's that.
Next time: The actual game!
Welcome to the Ninth WorldOriginal SA post
Chapter 1: Welcome to the Ninth World
The Ninth World exists on the backs of eight others, eras that stretched for countless millenia and produced infinite wonders. These remnants are both all-pervasive and poorly understood. The mountain you stand on was once a monument to a long-forgotten king, the very soil of the Earth has bee reworked thousands of times, and energy and data flow through the air around you on invisible waves. Very little of this is known, however, to the people of the Ninth World. They learn enough to survive in the present, but little more.
The area Numenera focuses on is called the Steadfast, a collection of settled lands on the southern part of the sole supercontinent. While there are many kings, the most powerful force is the Aeon Priests of the Order of Truth, ruled by the Amber Pope. A religion devoted to science, they study the people and technology of the past. Out past the Steadfast lies the Beyond, where communities are isolated and rare. The Aeon Priests here are not part of the Order of Truth, and usually organize into claves, laboratory-monasteries that are often the center of villages and provide protection and other resources for them.
Numenera are divided into artifacts, cyphers, and oddities.
Artifacts are larger devices that can be used multiple times to produce the same result. Your lightsabers, ray guns, and force fields usually go here.
Cyphers are one-shot devices that are usually pretty minor. Healing pills, grenades, and the like end up here. Don't stack up too many pills, though, or you'll get cancer or be swallowed by a black hole.
However, cyphers are dangerous when gathered together because they create radiation and harmonic frequencies that are inimical to human life.
This is the in-game justification for why you can't carry a million bits of junk around with you. To the games credit, there's a section later on where it discusses how to modify it, so I'm not going to rag on it.
Also worth mentioning here is that there are two kinds of cyphers, anoetic and occultic. Anoetics are simple to use, like a pill or a box with a single switch on it. Occultics are more complicated, but usually have better effects and they take up two of your cypher slots (you only start with two or three, for reference).
Oddities are pretty much the "other" category. They're weird things that don't have any mechanics attached and are mostly for flavor. A jar that fills itself with black paint every morning, a tiny bell that rings like a cathedral bell when touched, a small wand that keeps insects away inside of a small area, that sort of thing.
A 21st Century Perspective
In case it wasn't screamingly obvious, this section just explains that Numenera is basically a medieval world set a billion years in the future. This lets you throw a lot of anachronisms in there without it being out place; zippers, rain coats, and democracy all exist in the Ninth World and are all familiar to the PC. This is all entirely reasonable!
The next section, on the other hand, is pretty dumb:
On the other hand, characters in Numenera don’t refer to weapons as “guns” or vehicles as “cars.” The technology in the Ninth World is too advanced and too alien for such terminology to have endured. Using 21st-century terms for weapons and vehicles is as inappropriate as using medieval terms. The numenera is weird—much of it wasn’t created by humans or for humans. It isn’t designed or presented in any way that might be familiar to the players or the characters. Only through experimentation, player insight, and character skill can the PCs identify, and possibly use, what they find.
Now, this isn't automatically a bad thing; a good writer can use an odd vocabulary with skill to reinforce whatever mood they're shooting for.
Numenera, though, mostly just uses lots of Sci-Fi Words, slapping made-up terminology down and swapping synonyms in hope that you'll find it all terribly mysterious. "Slugspitter" instead of "gun", "drit" instead of "dust", "synth" instead of "plastic", "machine intelligence" instead of "artificial intelligence", and so on. Calling a grenade a "detonation" doesn't actually make it any more interesting or wondrous to your players.
Chapter 2: How to Play Numenera
This chapter is just a basic introduction to the rules, most of this will be covered in more depth later.
In Numenera, you resolve actions by rolling a d20 (usually unmodified) against a target number. Roll equal or higher, you pass. The target number is determined by the task difficulty, which is rated from 0 to 10. Multiply the task difficulty by three and you get the target number. There's also a handy chart, which informs me twice that I have 50/50 chance of rolling a 9 or better on a d20. Good to know!
You can modify the difficulty of roll in three ways: skills, assets, and Effort.
Skills are the same as in every other RPG. You can either be trained or specialized in a skill and you reduce the difficulty by one or two steps respectively. You can never reduce the difficulty of a roll by more than two steps with a skill.
Assets are pretty much anything else; a piece of equipment, a buddy helping you, or any other sort of favorable condition. Assets can also never reduce the difficulty by more than two steps.
Effort isn't explained here and we'll get to it shortly. It's... not very good.
If the difficulty of roll ends up at 0, you automatically pass. If it ends up at 7 or above, you're screwed.
Some rare abilities and items add a flat bonus to your d20 roll, but never more than +1 or +2. If you get a +3, it just decreases the difficulty by one step instead.
Combat works like any other roll. Every enemy has a level (1-10) that serves as the task difficulty for every roll in combat with them, both offensive and defensive. Players make all of the rolls, which is something I really like, so kudos for that.
If you hit, you deal a flat amount of damage based on your weapon. If you get hit, your Armor reduces the damage by a flat amount, all the way down to zero. Armor (capital A) is the characteristic and can include other things besides the physical armor (lowercase a) you're wearing. Armor (lowercase) is a little bit fucked and we'll get to that in a bit.
Weapons are divided into light, medium, and heavy categories. A light weapon inflicts 2 points of damage and is small (unarmed attacks are also Light). A medium weapon inflicts 4 points of damage and is something you can use in one hand, even if you usually don't (a spear or quarterstaff, for instance). A heavy weapon inflicts 6 points of damage and is something you have to use in two hands. The examples given for the categories are not super-consistent (a rapier is Light, for some reason?), but it's simple enough.
If you roll a natural 19 or 20 (17-20 in combat), something good happens!
On a 19, you can add 3 points of damage to your attack, or you can add a minor effect to the roll, which lets you do something special like knocking an enemy back or distracting them. Out of combat, it just lets you succeed particularly well.
On a 20, you add 4 points of damage or a major effect, which lets you do things like knocking down your foe or taking an extra action. Out of combat, you succeed really, really well, with an additional beneficial effect occurring depending on what you're doing. You can trade a major effect for a minor, if you want.
In combat, rolling a 17 or 18 adds 1 or 2 points of damage respectively, and nothing else.
Rolling a 1 is bad and allows the GM to introduce an intrusion. These suck and you will hate Monte Cook if you use them as written. More on that in just a second.
Range and Speed
Range is sort-of simplified into either immediate, short, or long. Immediate is anything within 10 feet of you, short is anything farther than immediate and within 50 feet, and long is farther than short and anything within 100 feet. Past that, all distances are specified.
I... have no idea why he didn't just the whole hog and abstract every range, adding on an "extreme" or something to the end there. It produces a situation where you do have to track specific distances under certain circumstances, which removes the entire point of having abstract ranges!
Anyway, attacks are measured in these ranges. A melee attack is immediate, a thrown knife is short, and a crossbow is long, for example. You can move up to immediate range as part of another action, move up to short range as your whole action, and move up to long range as your whole action, but you have to roll to see if you faceplant in the dirt like an idiot.
God, XP. This games XP system is awful and I hate it.
Experience points (XP) are rewards given to players when the GM intrudes on the story (this is called GM intrusion) with
a new and unexpected challenge. For example, in the middle of combat, the GM might inform the player that he drops his weapon.
This pretty much sets the tone for GM intrusion, which amounts to "randomly fuck over your players" in almost all of the examples. There are systems which do this well, but Numenera encourages you to drop your pants at the table and moon your players, which is a challenge only in the "rabid gophers in your pants" sense.
However, to intrude in this manner, the GM must award the player 2 XP. The rewarded player, in turn, must immediately give one of those XP to another player and justify the gift (perhaps the other player had a good idea, told a funny joke, performed an action that saved a life, and so on).
This... is not actually a bad idea! Good job, Numenera.
Alternatively, the player can refuse the GM intrusion. If he does so, he doesn’t get the 2 XP from the GM, and he must also spend 1 XP that he already has. If the player has no XP to spend, he can’t refuse the intrusion.
Yes, your XP pulls double duty as both your temporary advantage points and as your permanent advancement points.
Experience points are used primarily for character advancement (for details, see Chapter 3: Creating Your Character, page 20), but a player can also spend 1 XP to reroll any die roll and take the better of the two rolls.
You can also earn XP between sessions for finding interesting things and making discoveries. You don't get any XP for fighting monsters or overcoming other challenges. This is, for the most part, fine.
Anyway, that's the XP system! Or to be precise, about half of it. The rest is also pretty shitty, but it'll be a while before I get to that.
Chapter 3: Creating Your Character
Characters in Numenera have three stats: Might, Speed, and Intellect. Mostly obvious, but Might also includes toughness and Intellect includes charisma, willpower, and wit.
Pool, Edge, and Effort
Each of the stats has two components, a Pool and an Edge.
The Pool is composed of expendable points that you use to do things! You might have an ability that lets you spend a Speed point to reload your weapon quickly, for example. 9 to 12 is the average, but most PCs will probably have a stat above that. You recover points by resting (Numenera actually has resting mechanics that I like), through special abilities, or through certain types of numenera.
Your Edge simply reduces the cost of spending points from your Pool. You'll start with at least one Edge at 1. If it reduces the cost to 0, you can use the ability for free. You always subtract Edge from the total cost of a roll after adding everything in.
Effort! Effort lets you reduce the difficulty of an action by one step by spending 3 points from an appropriate Pool. You can apply multiple levels of Effort by spending more points, depending on your Effort stat , which starts at 1. Every subsequent level of Effort costs 2 points instead of 3. You subtract your Edge from the total cost, and if you you have an Edge of 3, you can apply a single level for free. You can also use Effort to add 3 points of damage to an attack, or 2 if it's an area attack. Area attacks also always deal a point of damage with Effort, even if you resist. If your Effort stat is 2 or more, you can apply multiple types of Effort to a single roll.
Wait, sorry, I missed a bit back in Pools.
When your character is injured, sickened, or attacked, you temporarily lose points from one of your stat Pools. The nature of the attack determines which Pool loses points.
So, yeah, your Pools are your HP. Hope you like choosing between being effective and not dying! Compounding the problem is that the types are not remotely balanced. There are nine things in the entire game that do Intellect damage and 3 of those are PC abilities. Ten things do Speed damage. Everything else? Might damage! Fuck you, jocks!
Character Tiers and Benefits
There are six of them! They are pretty much levels.
There are four benefits, each of which cost 4 XP, and you can only buy each one once per tier. After you buy all four, you advance to the next tier and start over again. They are: 4 points to spend on your Pools, +1 to one Edge stat, +1 Effort, and training in a skill (specialization if you're already trained).
Instead of buying a skill, you can also add 2 to your recovery rolls, buy a new ability from your class, or reduce the cost from wearing armor!
This option lowers the Might cost by 1 and lowers the Speed reduction by 1.
So, yeah, you take an hourly Might hit for wearing armor, along with a permanent Speed reduction. Fuck you, jocks!
Skills are freeform in Numenera, but there's a suggested list (Astrology to Woodworking) to give you an idea of appropriate scope. Handy!
Then Cook manages the impressive feat of shooting himself in the foot in the very next sentence.
You could choose a skill that incorporates more than one of these areas (interacting might include deceiving, intimidating, and persuading) or is a more specific version of one (hiding might be sneaking when you’re not moving). You could also make up more general, professional skills, such as baker, sailor, or lumberjack.
What the hell? A freeform skill system needs to give the GM some sort of foundation so they can determine what's appropriate. You don't write "ignore all of this shit" in the margins!
Anyway, you also normally can't take a skill in fighting or defense tasks, without some sort of class ability. You can however, take a skill in a special ability, like mind knives or whatever.
Character Descriptor, Type, and Focus
Creating a character in Numenera is simple! You build a statement that goes "I am an adjective noun who verbs , filling in the italics. So "I am a Charming Jack who Fights with Panache". The adjective is called a descriptor, the noun is your character type (class), and the verb is your focus.
So this would be great if that first sentence wasn't a lie. You see, every one of these italicized words has mechanics attached to them. A lot of mechanics. So you actually build a character by picking from a list of what's already in the game, and you actually will probably build a character by figuring out which narrative descriptor carries the most benefit for your character.
Your class gives you special abilities. Most of these cost points from a Pool of one type or the other, and if there's a + sign next to the cost, you can spend more points on the ability. If an ability requires an action to use (shooting fire out of your face or whatever), then it has "action" next to it. Some abilities are called enablers and function passively and constantly for no cost.
Next Time: Fighters, Wizards, Fighter-Wizards
Character TypesOriginal SA post
I am suddenly a lot less optimistic about that new Torment game.
If the mechanics are shit, then they're just being faithful to the spirit of the first game!
What? Even if it was a 0-19 die that still wouldn't work.
Your guess is as good as mine.
I thought jocks got abilities that negated the armor penalties?
I was kvetching about the armor thing because it's unnecessary in general and adds book-keeping. It doesn't cripple anyone, it's just dumb.
Chapter 4: Character Types
The murder in murderhobo. They use "weapons and armor to fight their enemies", which is one of the more unhelpful sentences I've seen lately. They can be soldiers, scouts, warlords, bandits, or even some athletes. Glaive is in-universe slang for pretty much any warrior-type "but in truth, it applies only to the best of the best", and there's another sentence that doesn't mean a whole lot. Glaives can be tough, focusing on Might, or agile, focusing on Speed. Or they can just split the difference and be both! Exciting stuff. Glaives also use ranged weapons and they can eschew weapons if they want.
Glaives are well-respected, because being nice to the guy who slays cyberdragons is a good survival move. Glaives get along with other fighting men and they don't usually mix with wizards, bookworms, and fat people. I'm only paraphrasing slightly. It also says that they don't have to follow the stereotype of dumb muscle, but that's a filthy lie.
In the group of PCs, Glaives usually take the lead, in the "first to step on any traps" sense. When it comes to numenera, they like weapons, armor, and healing/buffs. Also, slang! A cypher that enhances your abilities is called a "boost", while one that fixes you up is a "treat", which is certainly something.
Next we get to the part that's actually somewhat interesting, the backgrounds! They describe how you got to be good at pushing people's faces in and there are three of them, with no mechanical effects attached. It doesn't say you can create your own for some reason, but that's not hard to ignore. They also have advancement sections, which have a lot of "musts" telling you what you need to do to level up, but as far as I can tell these are never referenced again after this chapter, so oh well.
The first is Intensive Training, which means you waxed on and off a million times. Mystical kung-fu masters will still exist a billion years in the future, apparently. Advancing means you learn new techniques from your martial arts.
Next is Inborn Traits, which is less "good reflexes" and more "your dad was Spider-Man". You've had some training, but the extra edge you get is from your natural abilities. You might be a giant mountain of muscles or even psychic, using telekinetic abilities to enhance your attacks. You could even be a Randian ubermensch, "a human so perfect that you're beyond human". To advance, you need to train your natural abilities and figure out how they work.
Finally is Biomechanical Modification, which lets you trade your class up to street samurai. Beyond the obvious cybernetic stuff, your genetic code might have been overwritten by modified viruses, or you might just have shitloads of nanotech jammed into your body. You can also be a Silver Age comics character, having been exposed to radiation or chemicals of some sort. To advance, you need to find new shit to jam into your body. You might also need to find someone to put it there.
There's also a big ol' table of Connections, which are things like "You were the bouncer in a local bar for a while, and the patrons there remember you." You can roll a d20, choose, or create your own.
First tier Glaives automatically get the following for stats: Might Pool 11, Speed Pool 10, Intellect Pool 7, Effort 1, Might Edge 1, Speed Edge 1, and Intellect Edge 0. You get six points to dump into your Pools, however you want. So, yeah, your Glaive is probably going to be a meathead.
They also start with all of the following abilities:
Cypher Use: You can carry two cyphers at once.
Practiced In Armor: You can wear any kind of armor and reduce the penalties by 2.
Practiced With All Weapons: You can pick up a pair of nunchuks and not hit yourself in the face with them.
Physical Skills: You get training in one of balancing, climbing, jumping, or swimming.
For equipment, you start with a set of clothes, two weapons (you can swap one for a shield), light or medium armor, an explorer's pack (general adventurer stuff), and 5 shins (the coinage). You get 12 arrows or similar if you choose a weapon that needs ammunition. You get two cyphers and one oddity, the GM picks all three.
You also start with two Fighting Moves! These are your special abilities. Past first tier, you only get one per tier, you can always take a Fighting Move from a lower tier if you want, and you can also swap out a lower tier Move for a different one. They are (costs in parentheses):
Bash (1 Might): Does -1 damage, but dazes your target for a round, modifying the step of every action it makes by one to it's disadvantage. Doesn't have the action tag for some reason, but it should.
No Need For Weapons: Your unarmed attacks count as Medium weapons, not Light. +2 damage, if you don't remember.
Pierce (1 Speed): A ranged attack that does +1 damage. Only works if your weapon has a point, so sling users are shit out of luck.
Thrust (1 Might): A melee attack that does +1 damage. Only works if your weapon has an edge or point, so club users are shit out of luck.
Trained Without Armor: You get training in Speed defense actions when not wearing Armor.
Second tier Glaives get Skill with Attacks for free, which gives them training in bashing, bladed, or ranged weapons, further subdivided into light, medium, or heavy. Do you know where it doesn't mention or explain weapons being divided into categories like this? The weapons section!
Anyway, Glaives get one of the following Fighting Moves for free:
Chop (2 Might): A powerful slice with a blade. You need two hands to do it, you take a -1 penalty to your attack roll, and you get +3 damage. Also: the first time in the book that static penalties to dice have ever been mentioned.
Crush (2 Might): Chop, but with a blunt weapon or unarmed. That's it.
Reload (1 Speed): You can reload a weapon and fire in the same action.
Skill with Defense: You become trained in Might, Speed, or Intellect defense tasks. Can be taken three times, once for each stat.
Successive Attack (2 Speed): Cleave. If you take down an enemy, you can make another attack against a different enemy as part of the same action. Also works with ranged weapons.
Third tier Glaives get the following for free:
Expert Cypher Use: You can carry three cyphers.
Skill with Attacks: Second verse, same as the first.
These are their Fighting Moves:
Experienced with Armor: Reduces the armor penalties by a further 1 point, for a total of 3.
Lunge (2 Might): Increases the difficulty of the attack by one, +4 damage.
Slice (2 Speed): Decreases the difficulty of an attack by one, -1 damage. Only works with bladed or pointed weapons.
Spray (2 Speed): Same thing as Slice, but ranged. You need a rapid-fire weapon and you use up 1d6+1 ammo, or all of it if you have less.
Trick Shot (2 Speed): You can attack two targets at once with a ranged weapon. The difficulty of both attacks is increased by one.
Fourth tier Glaives get Skill with Attacks for free again.
Their Fighting Moves are:
Capable Warrior: +1 damage, always.
Experienced Defender: +1 Armor when you have armor on.
Feint (2 Speed): You can spend an action doing nothing against one foe. Next round, if you make an attack, the difficulty is decreased by one and you get +4 damage.
Minor to Major: You treat rolls of 19 as a natural 20 for Might or Speed attacks (pick one). You get all of the usual benefits.
Snipe (2 Speed): Same thing as Feint, but with a bow.
Fifth tier Glaives get the following for free:
Adept Cypher Use: You can now carry four cyphers at once.
Skill with Attacks: Same thing, but you can choose a type you're already trained in and bump it up to specialized.
Arc Spray (3 Speed): You can make up to three attacks against targets who are next to each other ("next to each other" is not a game term of any sort). The difficulty of the attack rolls is increased by one. A rapid-fire weapon is required.
Jump Attack (5 Might): You make a difficulty 4 Might check as part of your attack. If you succeed, you get +3 damage and knock the enemy down. If you fail, you can make the attack as normal, but nothing else happens.
Mastery with Armor: The penalties for wearing armor are both reduced to zero.
Mastery with Defense: You become specialized in a type of defense task you're already trained in. You can pick this up to three times.
Parry (10 Speed): You reduce the difficulty of Speed defense tasks by one for 10 rounds.
Sixth tier Glaives get Skill with Attacks for free, same as the Fifth tier.
Finishing Blow (5 Might): If your enemy is prone, stunned, or incapacitated, you get +6 damage.
Slayer (3 Might): When you hit an NPC or creature of level 5 or lower, you can make a second attack roll. If you succeed, you kill it. If you use it against another PC, it moves them one step down the damage track (which hasn't been explained yet).
Spin Attack (5 Speed): You make five attacks against different foes you can reach while standing still. Anything that modifies your attack or damage applies to all of the attacks.
Weapon and Body (5 Speed): You can make an unarmed attack after making a melee or ranged attack in the same round. Make a separate attack roll for each attack.
That's it! For real, this time.
So, if you've actually read through all of that, I hope you can begin to see what my primary complaint with the
It's that they are boring . They are so fucking boring. They are an endless litany of boring attacks and small modifiers to numbers and there is nary a single goddamn interesting thing to be found. If you thought full attacking was the height of ecstasy in D&D, then you will love the Glaive.
Next time: nethack -D -u wizard
Character Types 2Original SA post
Still the least awful magic school game reviewed here.
Character Types, Part 2
First line of the entry posted:
Nanos are sometimes called mages, wizards, sorcerers, or witches by the people of the Ninth World.
Well okay then.
Nanos are named for the nanotech (or nano-spirits) that are omnipresent throughout the Ninth World. They use numenera to work their mojo and by nature tend to be intelligent and knowledgeable. In society, the peasants tend to be afraid of them because they're mysterious assholes. Some of them are solitary ("like the wizards of fable"), others gather in schools. In the party, they stick to the back because they have glass jaws and they're the smart guys of the group. Some of them are clerics, too, because they claim to represent gods and whatnot. You know all of this.
Forbidden Knowledge is about the Wizardiest you can get. You know shit, so you can do stuff. That's about it. Psionics is actually a pretty neat idea; you can psychically interface with technology, letting you turn on toasters with your mind. Ports and Plugs is the headtubes option; stick all sorts of cybernetics into your body. There's also the table of Connections and they still aren't that interesting.
Now, the mechanics.
First tier Nanos start with the following stats: Might Pool 7, Speed Pool 9, Intellect Pool 12, Effort 1, Intellect Edge 1, and a Speed and Might Edge of 0. They get six points to dump into their Pools, as usual.
They also get these for free:
Expert Cypher Use: They can carry three cyphers.
Practiced With Light Weapons: Duh. Using medium or heavy weapons increases the difficulty of the attack by one or two, respectively.
Numenera Training: You get training in the numenera skill and "can attempt to understand and identify its properties". Nothing on whether that's part of the skill or the ability.
For starting equipment, they get clothes, a weapon, a book about numenera, and 4 shins. Also, three cyphers and one oddity, GM's choice.
Esoteries are what Nanos call their powers. They are basically
Similar in appearance to the way a fabled wizard might seem to cast spells
People who are not nanos sometimes call them spells
well okay then
Anyway, you get two to start. You have to have a free hand to use them and you can end them whenever you want. They get the same deal regarding new powers and swapping as glaives do. They are (costs in here, shortening Intellect to Int):
Hedge Magic (1 Int): Prestidigitation by a different name. I'm not actually complaining, it's a good way to sweep minor magic stuff into a single category.
Onslaught (1 Int): You do 4 points of Might damage or 2 points of Intellect damage to a single target within Short range. Remember that you can do this for free all day because of the Edge rules, so there's pretty much no point to actually carrying around a weapon. This is also the place where it started annoying me that Cook didn't just put in an Attack keyword onto the powers, because I had to flip around for a while to figure out whether or not this required an attack roll (it does).
Push (2 Int): You can push something (creature or object) up to immediate range. Has to be your size or smaller, can't be nailed down, and it has to be within short range. It is also super literal; you can only push. No opening a pull door or pulling a lever towards you.
Scan (2 Int): You scan a 10-foot cube. If there's a creature in it, you get it's level. You also "learn whatever facts the GM feels are pertinent about the matter and energy in that area". There are some examples, but there's absolutely nothing concrete about what you should tell your players. See how much you can con your GM out of!
Ward: +1 Armor forever.
Second tier Nanos just get an esotery, which is a word I kind of hate for some reason. They have:
Adaptation (2+ Int): You're the smuggest person around when mountain climbing, for 28 hours. Why 28 hours? It will be forever before it explains this, but the day is 28 hours long. Although adaptation apparently means "not dying" and little more in Monte Cook's world.
As a result, you can breathe safely, the temperature doesn’t kill you (though it might be extremely uncomfortable or debilitating), crushing gravity doesn’t incapacitate or harm you (though, again, you might be seriously hindered), and so on.
Or maybe it doesn't. Or maybe it does. Stop putting fucking "might" statements in the rules, Cook!
In extreme environments, the GM might increase the cost of activating this esotery to a maximum cost of 10 Intellect points.
Anyway, the GM should require as many Int points as it would normally do damage, which basically means it just shifts your HP around. This esotery can't deal with you getting shot in the face or anything of the like.
Flash (4 Int): I am going to say this is Fireball and you are all going to pretend to be surprised. The range is close and it deals damage up to an immediate area. Does 2 points of damage, but that can be increased with Effort.
Hover (2 Int): You can float up to your short distance as your action. The fact that you have to use an action doesn't matter all that much, because momentum exists for this power. Spend an action and you can go upwards forever, where forever is ten minutes, because that's how long this power lasts.
Mind Reading (4 Int): You can read the surface thoughts of a target within short range for a minute. The connection is broken if you or the target move out of range. Technically an attack, I guess? I really can't tell.
Stasis (3 Int): You freeze a target within close range for a minute. They are immune to everything, can't be moved, and can't do anything. Drop this on the villain in the middle of his speech, it'll be hilarious.
Third tier Nanos get Adept Cypher Use , which lets them carry four cyphers at once. Also, an esotery:
Barrier (3+ Int): Creates a 10x10 wall of force for ten minutes that you can put anywhere. It's a "level 2 barrier" and if you're wondering what that means, I can't tell you, because the word "barrier" is never defined in the book. I can only assume it means it's a level 2 roll to break through it, which is pretty shitty. You can strengthen it by one level per level of Effort, though.
Countermeasures (4 Int):
You can use dispel magic to end ongoing spells that have been cast on a creature or object, to temporarily suppress the magical abilities of a magic item, to end ongoing spells (or at least their effects) within an area, or to counter another spellcaster’s spell.
Energy Protection (3+ Int): You choose a "discrete type of energy you have experience with" and protect yourself from it. Numenera does not have categorized types of energy, so see if your GM will let you get away with kinetic energy. You get +10 Armor for ten minutes or +1 Armor for 28 hours. A suit of hyperadvanced power armor gives 6 Armor, for reference. Applying Effort lets you protect more targets that you're touching, two for each level of Effort.
Sensor (4 Int): You create an immobile, invisible floating eye for 28 hours. You can use an action to project your senses through it while it's up, even if you're off on Mars.
Fourth tier Nanos get an esotery:
Invisibility (4 Int): Lasts ten minutes, you're specialized in Speed and stealth tasks while you're invisible, and it ends if you do pretty much anything besides walking. If your ten minutes aren't up, you can just reactivate it for free, though.
Mind Control (6+ Int): You touch a target and get complete and utter control of it's actions for ten minutes. The creature doesn't remember anything from the period where you took control of it. Normally it only applies to level 2- creatures, but you can apply Effort on a 1-to-1 basis to increase this.
Regeneration (6 Int): You restore Might or Speed points, either adding six to the Pool or setting it to twelve. It takes a round per point and you need to remain in contact with the creature for the whole time.
Reshape (5 Int): You can change the form of matter, up to a 5-foot cube. Spending a single action means you make crude changes (punch a hole in a wall), ten minutes and an appropriate crafting roll lets you make more delicate changes (fashion an iron wall into a sword). Anyone with an ounce of imagination can find a thousand uses for this thing.
Slay (6 Int): You touch a level 3- target and they die. If you touch another PC, you dick, they move one step down the damage track.
Fifth tier Nanos get Master Cypher Use , which lets them carry five cyphers at once.
Absorb Energy (7 Int): You touch a cypher, artifact, or "another kind of powered machine or device" and suck out its energy. If it's a cypher it becomes useless, if it's an artifact you roll it's depletion (more on that later), and if it's anything else it's up the GM. You gain 1d10 Int points for this. Remember that you'll probably have an Intellect Edge of 5 by this point, so it's not actually as stupid as it sounds. You take some damage if you go over the limit of your Intellect Pool.
Now, let me skip ahead 15 chapters and show you something.
Chapter 19: Artifacts posted:
Form: A long, narrow synth tube
Effect: Water that passes through this tube is purified. Most liquids other than water drawn through the tube
come out as water (or mostly water).
There are 20 Artifacts with that Depletion score, which is a whopping 1/5 of them. What does it mean?
Same chapter posted:
A depletion entry of “—” means that the artifact never depletes
Dust to Dust (7 Int): You disintegrate a non-living object smaller than you. You have to touch it and it has to have a level less than or equal to your tier. You can disintegrate part of it, if the GM gives you the okay. You will not take this, because it is not infinite power.
Knowing the Unknown (6 Int): You ask the GM a question and you get a "general" answer. The GM assigns a level to the question, depending on the obscurity and difficulty of the question. Now let me show you something I hate:
Generally, knowledge that you could find by looking somewhere other than your current location is level 1...
You may take this power, if you prefer infinite knowledge over infinite power.
Teleport (6+ Int): You teleport anywhere on Earth that you have been to or seen. You can apply Effort to bring other people along, for three people per level.
True Senses: You can see in the dark, up to 50 feet, constantly. Also, "you recognize holograms, disguises, optical illusions, sound mimicry, and other such tricks (for all senses) for what they are." Magicians can get fucked.
Sixth tier Nanos may choose one of the god-like powers from the following:
Control Weather (10 Int): You can control the weather. Indoors, it can only create minor effects (mist, small temperature changes, and so on). Outdoors, it can still only create "normal" weather, so no hurricanes or the like.
Oh yeah and you can deal six points of damage to everything within a 1000 feet for ten minutes without an attack roll.
Move Mountains (9 Int): You can move mountains! Except that is a lie. You "can collapse buildings, redirect small rivers, or perform other dramatic effects", but that is also kind of a lie. What you can actually do is push ten tons 50 feet. That might actually collapse a small building, but I don't think you could shift anything but an anemic stream.
Traverse the Worlds (8+ Int): If you were being a waggish fuck, you might refer to this as teleportation, except greater somehow. Good thing I'm not that, then!
Anyway, this lets you teleport anywhere. The only criteria is "knows it exists", with the GM deciding if you have enough information. You can spend Effort to bring other people along, same as Teleport.
Usurp Cypher: Choose a single cypher you have that has a duration longer than instant and you destroy that cypher and gain its effects continuously. Guess how many cyphers make no goddamn sense when used with this ability!
Notable stuff you can get that doesn't require a GM ruling: Automatic teleportation whenever you get hit. Make anyone you punch lose their next turn. Armor 10 against fire. +4 Armor. Constant vertical flight. A level 6 companion. +1 Intellect/Might/Speed Edge. Training in any skill. Complete immunity to metal weapons (it can't come within ten feet of you). Constant Adaptation. The ability to be a fucking ghost who can still make mental attacks. The constant reduction of the difficulty of a physical task by three steps. A 100-foot radius sphere around you where no one can make any kind of attack without a level 9 Intellect defense roll while they're in there or for 1d6 rounds afterwards. -2 difficulty steps for any defense or attack roll. The ability to breathe water.
And it's over!
Monte Cook, ladies and gentlemen!
Next time: Not thieves, believe it or not
Character Types 3Original SA post
Character Types, Part 3
The third and final type is the Jack, which is surprisingly not a thief, despite the prominent picture of the someone picking a lock.
Jack comes from "jack of all trades". Factotums, going back to the D&D well. Their entry is a whole load of "they do lots of different things!" and that is pretty much everything you need to know about Jacks.
For backgrounds, they get Born Lucky, which is about genetic superiority for some reason, School of Hard Knocks, which is what it sounds like, and A Cobbled Jumble, which means that you have a bunch of different power sources instead of just one. Connection chart is still here, still isn't very interesting.
First tier Jacks get the following stats: Might/Speed/Intellect Pool 10, an Edge of 1 in a stat of their choice and Edge 0 in the others, and Effort 1. They get the usual 6 points to throw in their Pools. They also get these abilities for free:
Cypher Use: They can carry two cyphers.
Practiced With Light and Medium Weapons: Self-explanatory.
Skills: Free training in a skill.
Flex Skill: You can choose a new skill (except attacks or defenses) at the beginning of each day and gain training in it. You can't use it to upgrade a skill to specialized.
For starting equipment, you get clothes, two weapons, light armor, an explorer's pack, light tools, and 8 shins. You also get two cyphers and one oddity, GM's choice.
Jack special abilities are called Tricks of the Trade and there is a metric ton of copy and pasting. I'll list which abilities are copied with the original class in parentheses and then cover the unique ones. The usual choice (one per tier) and replacement rules apply. You get two of these to start, and they are:
Bash (Glaive), Hedge Magic (Nano), Pierce (Glaive), Practiced in Armor (Glaive), Skill with Defense (Glaive), Thrust (Glaive), and Trained Without Armor (Glaive).
Jacks don't get anything unique at first level.
Second tier Jacks get training in a skill and one of the following:
No Need for Weapons (Glaive), Push (Nano), Reload (Glaive), and Ward (Nano).
Brute Finesse: The only lockpick you need is your fist . You can spend your Might points on non-combat Speed rolls as if they were Speed points.
Experienced Adventurer: You can apply a level of Effort to a task to gain a minor Effect, even if you didn't roll a 19 or 20.
Third tier Jacks get training in a skill, Expert Cypher Use (three of them), and a Trick:
Hover (Nano), Mind Reading (Nano), Onslaught (Nano), and Skill with Attacks (Glaive).
Enhancement (4 Intellect): You get a +1 to Edge for any stat for ten minutes. You can only have one version of this up at a time.
Fourth tier Jacks get training in a skill and one of these:
Lunge (Glaive), Slice (Glaive), and Spray (Glaive).
Analytical Combat: You can spend Intellect points on combat Might or Speed rolls as if they were points from the appropriate Pool.
Transdimensional Weapon (3 Intellect): +1 damage and you can attack targets "that can only be affected by special transdimensional effects". This is also the last unique ability that Jacks get, so enjoy it.
Fifth tier Jacks get skill training and Adept Cypher Use (up to four now).
Feint (Glaive), Snipe (Glaive), Successive Attack (Glaive), Targeting Eye (Nano), and Mastery with Defense (Glaive).
Sixth tier Jacks get skill training and a Trick.
Energy Protection (Nano), Invisibility (Nano), Parry (Glaive), Spin Attack (Glaive), and True Senses (Nano).
And that's the end of the most class.
About the Type System
Up until now, I've been trying and failing to present the types as somewhat free of commentary. So, I obviously think the types are flawed. I should probably note that we're not done with character creation; there are still a couple of steps left. Still, types are the keystone that you build your character on, with everything else being some sort of modification or addition to them. Also, pretty much all of my complaints will apply to later chapters, so it's not like I'm going to magically change my mind in Chapter 5.
So what are the problems?
1) Wizard supremacy
Let's just get this one out of the way. I'm not going to spend a lot of time on it, because if you're familiar with D&D 3.5 and all of the arguments therein you can probably recite this one by heart.
This leads me into point two:
2) "You don’t earn XP for killing foes or overcoming standard challenges in the course of play. Discovery is the soul of Numenera."
That quote is enshrined in a box at the start of the second chapter. Numenera constantly reminds you that it is all about the exploration.
So, how do the classes measure up?
Jacks are pretty decent. They get a lot of skills to play around with, some fun (if pasted) abilities, and can definitely contribute.
Nanos are definitely good. They can pull knowledge out of the air, protect the party from danger, fly, and do a dozen other extremely useful things.
Glaives are total shit. They have 34 special abilities. Every single one of them is about combat . Literally the only thing they get that is non-combat related in their entire class is training in a physical skill and the worst cypher use progression in the game.
Numenera is supposed to be a game about exploration, to the point where fighting things is usually an unrewarding endeavor. So, why, then, is one of the three classes entirely focused on it?
3) Even the "good" classes are kind of crappy.
Even the Nano and the Jack are distinctly tinged with "how do I beat people up?" Most of the Jack's special abilities are copied from the Glaive list. The Nano is better, but the main focus of a lot of the abilities is still how much damage they do or how they modify attacks. For example, the only thing Control Weather tells you is how much damage you can do with it, not that you could, say, force a difficulty 3 check to remain standing in the winds.
4) A failure to engage with the title of the game.
In a game called Numenera, I sort of expect it to be about numenera , you know?
Well, guess what, play a fucking Nano. They are the only ones who engage in a major way with the core conceit of the game. They're the only ones who can identify them by default, they carry the most cyphers, and their special powers come from numenera.
Glaives don't get an artifact weapon that levels up with them, or special abilities dealing with using ray guns, or the ability to wear some sort of power armor, or anything at all . A Glaive could spend their entire career bumbling around in plate armor carrying a longsword.
5) A lack of imagination.
Holy shit the types are boring. Nanos are by far the most exciting and even then most of their ability list is some manner of generic fantasy magic. I've already ranted about Glaives and Jacks are just the two classes slapped together with a couple of pokes taken at something original.
They're just not interesting , which feels like an incredibly critical failure in a game that is supposed to excite your imagination.
Next time: Charming people are morons
Character DescriptorsOriginal SA post
You can nab a Simple Power that gives you irresistible soft fur to your Therianthropies, and make people fall in love madly with your horrendous murderous battle forms.
I can't help but love the bishounen werewolf power.
Chapter 5: Character Descriptors
If you'll think back to the "adjective noun verb" structure, this is the adjective. They modify your Pools, provide training in skills, and offer other various other benefits. Some of them give you inabilities, which just work like negative skills. If you have a skill in something that you also have an inability in, they cancel out.
They also have four little one-sentence story hooks to help guide you into the adventure, which would be a good idea if they weren't the laziest fucking things. "There is a reward involved, and you need the money." shows up seven times, to give you an idea.
There are twelve of these things, and they are:
Charming: You get a +2 bonus to your Intellect pool (Intellect is also Charisma, remember) and training in "positive or pleasant social interaction", but you're a weak-willed dumbass who isn't good at book-learning. You also get a contact, +10 starting money, and get an influential contact of some sort. You're also trained in numenera that mind-control people, which is slightly skeevy.
Clever: Another +2 to Intellect, but you're trained in defending against mental attacks. You do, however, get a c/p'd weakness to book-learning. Also training in lies and analyzing and the same +10 shins to start.
Graceful: +2 to Speed and training in balancing, physical performing arts, and Speed defense tasks. Pretty boring.
Intelligent: +2 Intellect, knowledge and memory training. Really boring.
Learned: +2 Intellect, training in three areas of knowledge, two starting books, and you are a gigantic who has no idea how to talk to other people.
Mystical/Mechanical: +2 Intellect, training in numenera, and "sense 'magic'", which lets you find active numenera. You also get the Hedge Magic esotery for free, an additional oddity to start, and a funky body odor or a weird eye twitch that makes everyone not want to talk to you.
Rugged: Training with animals, plants, and climbing/jumping/running/swimming. You also get some additional starting equipment and you act like a socially retarded dumbass in a three wolf moon t-shirt.
Stealthy: +2 Speed, and training in stealth, lying, and numenera illusions. All of that crouching has done hell on your knees, though, so you suck at "movement-related tasks". Hope your GM doesn't interpret stealth as movement!
Strong: +4 Might, training in breaking shit and jumping, and an additional weapon. Boring.
Strong-Willed: +4 Intellect, training in mental defenses and concentration, and you suck at logic and memorization, for some reason.
Swift: +4 Speed and training in initiative and running. You run like a gigantic klutz, though, so you suck at balancing.
Tough: +1 Armor, you're better at recovering from injury, training in Might defense actions, and an extra light weapon for some reason.
So, to recap, if you were to roll a d12 to determine your character descriptor, there's a 50% chance you're either a socially maladjusted weirdo or just an idiot.
Chapter 6: Character Focus
The verb in the character statement. These are much more involved than the descriptors and there are a whole 29 of them. They grant you an additional special ability at each tier, some possible bonus starting equipment, a suggested appearance, and a connection to the other PCs that is actually kind of interesting! Unfortunately, some of them are... really poorly thought out. Also, the return of GM intrusions in suggestions for each focus. These are easily the least terrible they get in the book, but most of them are still pretty bad.
Bears A Halo of Fire
You can create an aura of flames around yourself, eventually gaining the ability to throw fireballs, create a giant hand of fire, cover your weapons in flames, create fire tentacles, and summon a fire elemental. All Intellect-based. If you use esoteries, all of them are fire-themed.
You get an artifact spray-can that makes inanimate objects fireproof (no restrictions on usage) and your Connection is that one other PC is completely immune to your fire. You wear red or yellow like a low-rent Batman villain.
Carries a Quiver
You're an archer! You can deal more damage with a bow, use Intellect points on bow attacks, and you can raise the difficulty of a target's checks by one by firing two arrows at them. You also get training and eventual specialization in archery and fletching, but not in bowyering for some reason. Uses all three stats and is quite boring. Fighters still get the shaft. sorry
You start off with a nice bow and 24 arrows. You have two Connections, one of which is terrible, one which is not. See if you can guess which is which!
Connection: Pick one other PC to be the true friend who gave you the excellent bow that you currently use. Secretly pick a second PC (preferably one who is likely to get in the way of your attacks). When you miss with a bow and the GM rules that you struck someone other than your target, you hit the second character, if possible.
Not going to cause problems at all, no sirree.
Commands Mental Powers
Telepathy! You can talk to other people's brains, read minds, inflict Intellect damage in a burst, borrow other people's senses, straight-up mind control people, and link a bunch of people together in network. All Intellect based.
Your powers are impossible to detect just by looking at you, but you have a crystal duct-taped to your forehead, so that's going to narrow it down a bit. Said crystal is an artifact that gives you +1 Intellect points when it's on your forehead or temple, but takes 5 away if you lose it. Your Connection is that one other PC is constantly in contact with you when you're in short range and is immune to your psychic attacks.
The Druid ghetto. You get an animal companion that levels up as you do, the ability to calm animals and eventually control them, a low-grade Doctor Dolittle ability, a mount (separate from the companion), the ability to see through your companion's eyes, and the ability to summon a bunch of lesser animals to help out. Intellect-based.
You get food for your animal companion and a harness or other such gear. Your Connection is, well:
Connection: Pick one other PC. That character seems to disturb your creatures in a way that you can’t explain. You know that you must keep your animals away from him if possible, or you might lose control of them.
Who seriously wrote this and thought it was good idea? (It was Monte Cook.)
What it sounds like. All of your abilities are Intellect-based. You can hover, attack people with gravity for 6 damage, gain complete immunity to ranged attacks for a round, flat-out fly, and win every encounter by yourself:
You can increase a target’s weight dramatically. The target is pulled to the ground and can’t move physically under its own power for one minute. The target must be within short range. For each level of Effort applied, you can affect one additional creature. Action.
Game balance! You also get +1 Speed Edge at tier 2 and an oddity that lets you determine the weight of things. Your Connection is that you almost killed another PC with your powers recently. They figure out how they feel about it. You wear "billowy garments that display your mastery of gravity’s pull and conceal your identity and intentions." I can't imagine any way that doesn't make you look like a total asshole.
Controls Gravity GM Intrusions: Many people are frightened to be around someone who controls gravity. Losing command of such powers could inadvertently send objects careening off into the sky, perhaps even into orbit.
I am going to be fair and admit that I kind of love the idea of "Glaive, your sword is now in orbit".
You're a magician, but not the cool kind. You can create illusions, starting at ten-feet and moving up to a mile at tier 6. You can disguise yourself, create illusory doubles, and end encounters by making every single enemy run away! You have to make an attack roll this time, though, so it's moderately less broken. All Intellect-based.
If you have esoteries, they are "psychedelic". You get a mini-TV as an oddity and you dress like a peacock. Your Connection is that one other PC is immune to your illusions. You may or may not know this.
Crafts Unique Objects
Part Craft (Basketweaving), part useless, and part broken, depending entirely on how much spare time you have. You get training in crafting four different kinds of mundane items (or specialization in two), +1 to the level of an artifact you wield if you have a day to tinker with it, +1 to the level of all cyphers you wield, and the ability to make any cypher into any other cypher in a week. Also:
You can modify any artifact to give it different or better abilities as if that artifact were one level lower than normal, and doing so takes half the normal time to modify a device. Enabler.
You can create new artifacts in half the time, as if they were two levels lower, by spending half the normal XP. Enabler.
So how much time does it take to create or modify artifacts? Well, crafting times start at a week for a "common numenera item", like a glorified flashlight. A "simple" numenera will run you a month. A normal numenera is going to run you a year or "many years". Simply modifying something is still going to take you a month, at best. So unless you have absolutely no time constraints, you're moderately useless. If you do, you're pretty overpowered.
You also get some tools and a shitty additional item you could make. Your Connection is that you made something for another PC, they get to pick what.
Magneto in a polo with the company logo on it, with a little tag that says "Owner". You can move, destroy, and reshape metal. You get training in Speed defense tasks against attacks using metal, complete immunity to metallic ranged attacks for a round, and your top-tier ability lets you use your powers on anything by magnetizing it. Intellect-based.
Your Connection is that one other PC has all of the metal on their body jingle when you use your powers. Don't be a dick and pick the thief.
I don't have a joke here, these are bards. You get bardic knowledge , a pretty shitty Inspire Competence (1/day/PC), and fascinate . Intellect-based.
You start off with an instrument or whatever else you need to perform, and your Connection is:
Connection: Pick one other PC. This character is your worst critic. Your abilities to help or inspire others don’t function for her.
Exists Partially Out of Phase
I just figured out the requisite godawful pun in Kitty Pryde's name, which makes me feel kind of dumb. Anyway, you can walk through walls, phase through attacks, ignore armor, and go completely ghosty. Intellect-based. Your Connection is that one of the other PCs helped you figure out how to use your abilities.
Explores Dark Places
Not gonna touch that one. The fluff suggests Indiana Jones, but the reality is that this is the Thief mark one, dungeon-crawling edition. You're trained at exploration-type tasks, lockpicking, tinkering with devices, escape artist, dodging, and contortionist tasks. You can see in the dark, sneak better in the dark, and blind someone if you have a light source. That last one is Speed-based.
If you have esoteries, the make no sound and have shadowy visual manifestations. You get some additional explorer's gear to start and your Connection is that one other PC was previously your adventuring companion (you get a small mechanical boost when you work together).
Fights with Panache
Buckler of swashes. You can inspire others just by fighting, parry better and for others, perform daring maneuvers, make acrobatic attacks, and use your Intellect pool in place of your Speed pool. Speed-based.
You start off with stylish clothes and a blinged-out weapon, and your Connection is that you're constantly trying to impress another PC. I like this one. The Intrusion is pretty bad, though:
Fights With Panache GM Intrusions: Looking silly, clumsy, or unattractive can be the swashbuckler’s greatest fear.
Looking kind of silly is equivalent to stabbing a LaGrange point, apparently.
Focuses Mind Over Matter
Telekinesis, plain and simple. You can deflect attacks, move stuff around, boost your own strength, attack people by chucking stuff at them, and reshape matter. You can also teleport anything to your hand from the standard item list, which is already pretty good, or 1/day let the GM randomly determine it for you, which gives you a 20% chance of getting a numenera of some sort. Intellect-based.
Your Connection is:
Connection: Pick one other PC. This character can cause your telekinetic powers to act oddly. Every once in a while, if he stands directly next to you, your powers are cancelled, but at other times, they seem improved when used near him.
There are no mechanics attached to this, so flip a coin, I guess? At least it's not actively antagonistic towards another PC.
Fuses Flesh and Steel
Cyborgs! You gain a no-frills bonus to your stats, the ability to plug yourself into machinery, a built-in weapon, the ability to fuse with numenera, and another straight-up bonus to your stats. A total of +2 Armor, +8 Might/Speed, and +5 Intellect. In exchange, the first five points of damage you take can only be healed by repairing yourself.
You start with some tools and repair parts, and your Connection is that one other PC knows your true nature or another related secret of yours.
Next Time: Mechanically superior werewolves!
Character FocusOriginal SA post
I'll vote for
. I want to see how the game handles Tolkien-style Elves and Radagast is cool.
Character Focus, Part 2
Howls At The Moon
Apropos of fucking nothing, werewolves! Or rather, lycanthropes, because the game very studiously avoids using the word werewolf. It also tries to provide a pseudoscientific justification for the whole thing, saying you're drawing mass from an extradimensional source, which I'm pretty sure was an Animorphs plot point. Anyway, at first tier, you're a genuine werewolf. You transform into a monster for one hour for five consecutive nights, attacking everything within short range. This is not actually a downside, because the roll to change back to your normal form is super easy and it takes up your action, meaning you can stand there doing nothing until you transform back. Game design! After you change back, you take a penalty to all your rolls, or a larger one if you don't kill and eat something while transformed.
At second tier, you can transform any night you want. The roll is a
65/45 chance, but you can just keep doing it until you succeed. In further tiers, you get more stat boosts and transforming becomes easier, until you can do it automatically and don't take the penalty. Overall, you get a +11 to your Might Pool, +2 Might/Speed Edge, +6 Speed Pool, and +2 Armor.
I misread this earlier and thought it was better than it actually was. I missed the very important qualifier of "night", which means that there's either going to be a lot of thumb twiddling in your group or that you won't be using your powers much. So, eh.
Anyway, you get a
chronometer for an artifact and your Connection is that you won't attack one other PC and they can calm you down.
Hunts With Great Skills
A ranger/rogue thing. Includes manhunters. You can track, sneak, and move. You get a pretty weak sneak attack-alike and the ability to mark targets, making you better at fighting them and tracking them. All of your abilities are Intellect-based, except for this winner, which is Speed:
You can run a short distance and make a melee attack to grab a foe of your size or smaller. A successful attack means you grab the foe and bring it to a halt if it was moving (this can be treated as a tackle, if appropriate). Action.
It is literally impossible to use this ability, because Numenera uses the usual tit-for-tat style of action management, meaning you would need to use an action when it's not your turn. Cook!
You get sneaky boots as starting equipment and your Connection is that one other PC saw you show "surprising mercy" to your target, and you hope that they'll keep it on the down-low to preserve your reputation as an ice-cold sociopath in the deer hunting community.
There are a lot of ways to handle the "my character is actually five dudes" problem that pops up in any game with summoners or leaders. D&D 4E has them using up your own actions, Apocalypse World has them as oddball weapons, Only War has them as cannon fodder ability enablers, there are a lot of interesting ways to handle it, and there's not really an excuse for not dealing with it these days.
Guess what Numenera does?
You get a constant companion that levels up with you and six weaker companions later on. If they die (they will die), you need to spend a whole two weeks recruiting before you can get a new one. You can also inspire, fascinate, and mind-control/persuade people. At 6th tier, you can ask the GM general questions about the outcomes of plans you make. All Intellect-based.
You get an artifact that lets you tag and track people, but only your followers will do it. Why? The process is "somewhat demeaning", so uh, yeah. Your Connection lets you dictate another character's background; they were once a follower of yours, but now you "think of him as a peer". Yay.
Lives in the Wilderness
Most of the time, covering yourself in natural smells to keep your scent from arousing suspicion in the wilderness is more important than bathing to keep yourself presentable to other humans.
You get training in all sorts of wilderness-type stuff, trap sense, and can forage for food for you and the other PCs. At higher tiers, you get more supernatural, and can pull information out of the woods, harry your enemies with nature, and protect yourself and the other PCs from all things nature. Intellect-based. Your Connection is that you feel contempt for another city-slicker PC.
Shields, armor, and all things defensive. Gets the seemingly obligatory "stand still and do nothing but defend yourself " option, which sucks here as badly as it always does. You get a shield and your Connection is that another PC saved your life, and you feel indebted towards them. Really boring.
Assassins and antisocial assholes. You get training in stealth, disguises, and poisons, a sneak attack-alike, a copy-pasted Glaive instakill move, and the ability to instantly hide after you kill someone. Speed-based. You start with a disguise kit and some poison, and your Connection is that another PC knows your true identity.
Barbarians! You get the obvious rage ability (which is fairly unimpressive), you're better at dodging when unarmored, you get a second attack when you roll a 17+, and you get a boring stat boost when Cook ran out of ideas. You also get an additional 5 Might points, but they can only be used as HP. Paperwork! Their best ability, though, is this:
If you successfully attack a target, you knock it prone in addition to inflicting damage. The target must be your size or smaller. You can knock down a target larger than you if you apply a level of Effort to do so (rather than to decrease the difficulty of the attack). Enabler.
No size limit, as long as you spend that Effort. Knock down a skyscraper with your axe!
Rage is weirdly keyed off of Intellect and that last power is Might. Your Connection is that you feel oddly protective towards another PC.
Rides the Lightning
Controls electricity. Gets a giant grab-bag of wizard powers, including lightning bolts, teleportation, a Speed boost, flight, and a wall of electricity. Intellect, of course. You can also charge devices (but not cyphers) or drain devices for points of Intellect, which isn't infinite power, but is a substantial boost over everyone else, particularly with the piece of equipment they get:
You have a bag of miscellaneous batteries and power cells. Whenever you find a new device that operates on batteries or cells (GM discretion), there is a 75 percent chance that the bag contains one that will power it if it depletes.
I mentioned depletion back in the Nano section, but it's basically the chance that your artifact will just completely crap out when you use it. This is, quite literally, the only way in the game to fix them. Stuck into a single character option. What annoys me about this is how clearly it was thrown in with exactly zero thought; there's a lot of talk later about balancing artifacts around their depletion, but you can just say "fuck that" if you have this.
So, ugh. Their Connection is that another character can ride along with you when you're teleporting or flying.
Talks to Machines
With your braiiiiin. You can (de)activate machines from a distance, give a machine more power, make unintelligent machines like you, communicate with machines, and completely control machines. You also get a robot companion and an ability called "Robot Fighter" which I'm not going to spoil by describing. Intellect-based.
You get additional starting tools and your Connection is yet another "fuck interparty cooperation":
Pick one other PC. That character seems to have a terrible relationship with machines—or at least the machines that you communicate with. If she is next to a machine that you interact with in a friendly manner, that machine is treated in all ways as being one level lower than normal (unless doing so benefits you or her, in which case the level does not change).
Wears a Sheen of Ice
"Ice mages". You can cover yourself in ice for Armor, create objects out of ice, and get a bunch of ice attack powers in touch and area varieties. You can also eventually freeze an enemy solid with your touch. All Intellect-based. You have a weapon made of stronglass (figure it out) and your Connection is that your ice armor covers another PC if they're standing next to you.
Wields Power with Precision
Tier 1: Genius. Your Intellect Pool increases by 5 points. Enabler.
Tier 2: Training and Precision. You are trained in all esoteries. As a result, you reduce the difficulty of any task involved in the use of an esotery by one step. Enabler.
Tier 3: Enhanced Esoteries. Your esoteries that have durations last twice as long. Your esoteries that have short ranges reach to long range instead. Your esoteries that inflict damage deal 1 additional point of damage. Enabler.
Tier 4: Greater Repertoire. You can learn one additional esotery of fourth tier or lower. Enabler.
Tier 5: Greater Training. You are specialized in all esoteries. As a result, you reduce the difficulty of any task involved in the use of an esotery by two steps. Enabler.
Tier 6: Supra-Genius. [sic] Your Intellect Pool increases by 5, and your Intellect Edge increases by 1. Enabler.
Wields Two Weapons at Once
You can wield two light (eventually medium) weapons at once, attacking with both of them in the same turn. You can also make a single attack roll with both of them, defend yourself with them, distract your opponents, and make up to six attacks against different opponents. You start with an additional weapon and your Connection is that you've trained with another PC to the point where you get defense bonuses for fighting back-to-back. Actually cool and thematic!
You can manipulate matter and time, which sounds exciting until you figure out that you're secretly a cleric. Your basic ability is that you can heal 1d6 points of any Pool, with the difficulty for the roll to heal them going up every time you use it. You can also cure diseases and poisons, let other people spend Intellect to heal if they touch you, and once per day, completely and totally heal a PC. You can also grant someone else an immediate action out-of-turn and reverse time :
You turn back time a few seconds, effectively undoing a single creature’s most recent action. That creature can then immediately repeat the same action or try something different. Action.
God, even limited time travel powers are such a pain in the ass for book-keeping. Also, keep in mind that this takes an action, which means that this power is way more complex than it sounds. Imagine that the monster you're fighting goes first in the round and you go last. The monster moves up and attacks PC A, hitting them and taking them down. This, however, means that it moved into range of PC B and C, who attack it and kill it. You, going last, rewind the monster's turn to save PC A. The monster decides to move and attack PC B instead, so it doesn't get killed.
Now replay the entire round.
Works the Back Alleys
This sounds like a polite euphemism for prostitution, but it's actually thieves. You'll have to wait for later for creepy Numenera sex. Anyway, alley workers get training in all sorts of thievy stuff, contacts in the underworld, the ability to hamper a foe for a minute (sand in the eyes and all that), and the ability to narratively declare that there's a shortcut, secret entrance, or escape route if you're in a city, which is actually pretty cool. You start with light tools and your Connection is that another PC convinced you to leave your life of crime.
And that's it for Character Focuses! They are kind of a mess. Incredibly inconsistent tie-ins to other PCs, wildly varying power levels, and everything uses fucking Intellect for some reason.
Next Time: "Equipment in the Ninth World is often much like that found in an ancient or medieval societies"
EquipmentOriginal SA post
Chapter 7: Equipment
Last chapter of character creation! This is a short one. Numenera aren't covered here; they're stuck into their own section. What's covered here is all of the mundane stuff.
First up is Currency !
Thanks to the mining and metallurgy of the prior worlds, and their ability to create anything they wished (or so it seems, anyway), no metal is rarer than any other. People in the Ninth World have no concept of gold, silver, gemstones, or even diamonds as being valuable due to their scarcity. Such materials are valuable based on their beauty or usefulness alone. Most civilized societies use generic coins commonly referred to as shins. Shins are usually metal but can be made of glass, plastic, or substances that have no name. Some are jagged bits of interesting material or small, coinlike objects (such as highly decorative buttons from a machine), and others are properly minted and stamped, with writing and images. No minted coin in existence today comes from a prior world—no coins survive from the ancient races, if indeed they used such currency at all... Because shins are from the Ninth World, they rarely turn up in old locations. Occasionally, explorers of ancient or forgotten sites find a smattering of items—buttons or doodads—that can be salvaged as shins.
The paragraph that wasn't dumb was omitted. So, yeah, the Ninth World runs on Fallouts bottlecap economy, but not tongue-in-cheek. Point, laugh, move on.
Also, having a single unit of currency is pretty dumb when a meal, a knife, and glass of wine all cost 1 shin, but that's much more forgivable for the sake of not being a pain in the ass.
Next is Materials ! Numenera has a bunch of special materials, you will not care about any of them. The opening paragraph has a few gems, though.
Most objects built in the Ninth World are made of wood, leather, cloth, stone, glass, or metal. Smithies and forges can produce high-quality steel objects, but they generally work in iron or bronze.
If you can produce steel, why the fuck would you be making bronze? Just for shits and giggles? Remember, on this exact same page, we were told that "no metal is rarer than any other".
Unlike gold or gemstones, some of these materials are indeed recognized as being rare, but none are valuable for their rarity alone. Ninth Worlders are too practical for that.
Smugly misunderstanding economics, alright.
The actual special materials are adamant silk (stronger silk), azure steel (stronger steel, also blue), molded foam (styrofoam), organic stone (stone, but grown), pliable metal (bendy metal), shapestone (stone-like ceramic), stronglass (stronger glass), synth (plastics, and I'm quoting here), and synthsteel (stronger plastic). Like I said, boring.
It then notes that shopkeeps might charge more for exotic materials if they directly improve the functioning of the item, but they normally don't cost any more. This directly contradicts the point right in the same section about some of these materials being rarer, but whatever.
Numenera doesn't have an encumbrance system! If the GM decides that a character is carrying too much, it suggests two options. If they're lifting something over a short distance, make them roll Might, and if it's over a longer distance, assign Might and Speed penalties. Fairly sensible, really.
Equipment Lists and Prices
Equipment in the Ninth World is often much like that found in an ancient or medieval societies but can be far more advanced. For example, a simple tent or bedroll might be constructed of synthetic fiber that makes it entirely water-resistant as well as far lighter and warmer than cloth. A chainmail hauberk could be made in whole or in part from glassy links that are harder and lighter than steel.
Monte Cook conceives a setting, far flung in the future, where ages of countless miracles have passed. Where people live among the bones of dead civilizations, seeking to grasp a tiny fraction of the power they grasped. Where the world is vast and dark and mysterious and wondrous, and you can only hope to shine a light in the darkness so that a better world can be made.
He then throws that shit in the garbage and makes D&D: 1,000,000 AD edition, but holy shit did you see that chainmail, it's made out of plastic !
Armor! I've already bitched about armor, so to recap, it's an hourly drain on your Might and gives you a permanent Speed penalty while you have it on. The penalties are fairly small, but I hate keeping track of these things and the only reason for it is ~realism~ which gets my goat. Comes in light, medium, and heavy varieties, which provide 1, 2, and 3 points of Armor, respectively. Light and medium also get "special" varieties, which add 1 to their Armor values but are much more expensive.
You may be wondering, at this point, how exactly pricing fits into this fairly simple scheme.
Some things cost less, some things cost more, it all does the same thing, and the weapon and armor lists boil down to a fat load of nothing. That's how.
Next we hit weapons. Light, medium, and heavy, dealing 2, 4, and 6 points of damage, if you don't remember. Crossbows, longswords, polearms, yada yada yada. The list takes up most of a page and you could probably write 90% of it on a blind guess. There are a few unique weapons, though they all suck. Let's pick an example out of the hat and go with the verred!
Verred: This weapon resembles a sword with two forked blades. It is short and useful in defense as well as offense.
A) I have no idea how to visualize this. There's not a picture, obviously.
B) It does 4 damage, because it is a medium weapon, and that's it.
If your weapon system is granular and supports lots of options, you should have lots of weapons. If your weapon system is so simple I can explain it in a dozen words, you should not have lots of weapons. Duh.
After weapons, we hit the big-ass miscellaneous section, some of which is actually kind of interesting! It's divided into two sections, other and special. Special equipment are things that mostly aren't made in the present day, but are common enough that they don't count as numenera. I'm guessing, by the way, the line between what's weird normal equipment and what's an actual piece of numenera is never spelled out. I'm not going to recount the backpacks, matchsticks, and compasses (twice in different sections, for some reason). Stuff of note:
Explorer's Pack: Not actually interesting, but everyone gets one, so I feel I should mention it. Contains rope, rations, clothes, torches, and a couple of other adventurery things.
Floatstone: Antigravity rock! It has a virtual "negative" weight of ten pounds. Stick it to anything lighter and it'll float away.
Wait, how the fuck do you get ahold of a piece of this, then?
Memory Ants: Probably the coolest thing I've seen in Numenera so far, which is a little sad. It's a jar of ants that when released, run over a page of text, and then return to the jar. After that, give them some ink, and they'll recreate the page before dying. Weird, interesting, and useful.
Shaper Key: A wad of putty that when stuck in a lock will take on the shape of that locks key.
Uh. That's it. Okay, actually less interesting than I remembered. Oh well, with that, we are done with character creation!
Next Time: Rules! Oh boy.
Rules of the GameOriginal SA post
What the hell is up with the squiggle over the E in the logo? I just noticed it and it makes it look like the title is spelled Numenéra.
Chapter 8: Rules of the Game
For reference, here's the post where I went over a lot of the basic rules. This chapter covers a lot of the same ground, just more in depth, so I'll be skipping a lot of stuff. Excuse me if I repeat stuff or skip something important; just ask and I'll go into more detail, if you really want to read more words about the Cypher system.
Oh, yeah, and this chapter is pretty sparse on art and I don't want to grab too much stuff from future chapters, so I'll be throwing in some other stuff that's sort of appropriate.
How You Play Numenera
There is a handy-dandy step-by-step chart at the beginning of the chapter to break it down for you.
1. The player tells the GM what she wants to do. This is a character action.
2. The GM determines if that action is routine (and therefore works without needing a roll) or if there’s a chance of failure.
3. If there is a chance of failure, the GM determines which stat the task uses (Might, Speed, or Intellect) and the task’s difficulty—how hard it will be on a scale from 1 (really easy) to 10 (basically impossible).
4. The player and the GM determine if anything about her character—such as training, equipment, special abilities, or various actions—can modify the difficulty up or down by one or more steps. If these modifications reduce the difficulty to less than 1, the action is routine (and therefore works with no roll needed).
5. If the action still isn’t routine, the GM uses its difficulty to determine the target number—how high the player must roll to succeed at the action (see the Task Difficulty Chart, page 87). The GM doesn’t have to tell the player what the target number is, but he can give her a hint, especially if her character would reasonably know if the action was easy, average, difficult, or impossible.
6. The player rolls a d20. If she rolls equal to or higher than the target number, her character succeeds.
That’s it. That’s how to do anything, whether it’s identifying a strange device, calming a raging drunk, climbing a treacherous cliff, or battling a savage cragworm. Even if you ignored all the other rules, you could still play Numenera with just this information. The key features here are: character actions, determining task difficulty, and determining modifications.
I just highlighted the gobsmackingly stupid part so you didn't have to search for it. Remember, Numenera is a game where resource management plays a big part; your pools are the main way you can alter the difficulty of rolls. You are expected to do so without knowing the difficulty of the roll. You can blow your points on a completely worthless roll or you can fail to spend points on a roll that might be literally impossible for you to succeed at otherwise.
Task Difficulty and Rolling
The Numenera difficulty chart! Never gonna get tired of that 50/50 thing.
The most important thing a GM does is determine the difficulty of tasks. These are objective in relation to the players, so that cybergoblin will always be level 1. I would call this simulationism, but Ron Edwards would probably smack me. We kind of need a word for this. Anyway, as said before, most modifiers shift the difficulty of the roll, not the result itself. This has two consequences, according to Cook.
Quoth the Cook posted:
1. Low target numbers such as 3 or 6, which would be boring in most games that use a d20, are not boring in Numenera. For example, if you need to roll a 6 or higher, you still have a 25% chance to fail.
I also think it's more than a little telling that the only point of reference Cook has for whether or not his system is "boring" are games that use d20s.
The other one is just a long-winded restatement of "you can't roll a 21 on a d20", so we'll skip quotation.
Alright, so after you've gotten your empirically determined target number, you roll your die. Now, you do have static numbers that can add to your rolls, but only in increments of +1 or +2. If you get a +3, it turns into an asset, reducing the difficulty of
WAIT A GODDAMN SECOND
Can you smell what Monte's Cooking? posted:
The important thing to remember is that a skill can reduce the difficulty by no more than two steps, and assets can reduce the difficulty by no more than two steps, regardless of the situation. Thus, no task’s difficulty will ever be reduced more than four steps without using Effort.
So if you already have two assets, you can screw yourself out of a bonus by adding more bonuses. That's just plain sloppy game design.
If you roll 1 or 17-20, something bad/good happens! A 1 means the GM gets to
Minor and major effects are pretty boring. Knockdowns, disarms, not exactly exciting stuff. There is a called shot option which briefly perked my interest, but the system is entirely "bullshit it".
There is, however, one thing I like in the rules. Both the player and the GM have to agree on the effect. I mean, it's small, but I'll take what I can get at this point.
If you want to retry an action, you have to apply a level of Effort to do it. The GM can always rule that you can't retry it. Why do you have to do this?
Too many Cooks in the kitchen posted:
This rule doesn’t apply to something like attacking a foe in combat because combat is always changing and fluid. Each round’s situation is new, not a repeat of a previous situation, so a missed attack can’t be retried.
Cook, one of the main thing holding your system back is that you want it to be a storygame, but you don't seem to understand what a storygame is . You don't need a "realistic" justification for your rules, just a narrative one. The proper justification for making people spend some points on retrying an action is that retries are boring as hell and tie up the game and narrative. People in stories generally don't try the same thing over and over again. They either succeed or fail and find another way around the problem.
Speaking of which, one of the other things holding your system back is that you get lost in the rules for the sake of rules. In the context of exploration (which you have repeatedly reminded me this game is about), retries are really boring. If you can't pick the lock on the door on the first try, you should encourage people to find an alternate way, and tell GMs to keep this in mind. The rogue picking the lock on a door twice in a row is boring, the rogue trying, failing, and then having the barbarian just smash it open with his hammer is way more entertaining. Don't be afraid to say "no, you can't do this".
Sometimes there's an initial cost to making a roll. You might have to spend a couple of Might points to pry open a door, for example.
When do you apply this and how much? Fuck if I know. It's never explained and there are absolutely no guidelines beyond that you should do it when a roll is particularly difficult. Which is, you know, easily accomplished by the most basic mechanic in the game, raising the difficulty of a roll. Why does this rule exist?
Days are 28 hours long and years have 312 days, because the Earth's rotation has slowed down. This is mildly confusing because it is never mentioned until here, while a lot of things refer to "28 hours" before this. Not a giant complaint, but it could have been thrown in on one of the huge-ass sidebars somewhere back in the character section.
It also explains that you can generally assume that one minute durations will last the length of an encounter and ten minute durations will last you the length of a short exploration or similar, in which case you don't need to track precise durations. Decent enough, although I think I prefer the inverse model of having durations expressed in in-game terms and giving times if you really need them.
Numenera uses group initiative for the NPCs; players roll to see whether they go before or after the NPCs. As with all rolls, you just roll against the creature's level as a Speed task. Otherwise, initiative among the players doesn't matter. An alternate rule is also suggested where if one of the PCs manages to succeed, then every PC goes before the NPCs. Initiative! You have read it.
What does. Everyone gets one round an action. You can also move an immediate distance as part of your action. Now, this is all fine, but, well:
The Count of Monte Cooksto posted:
Opening a door and attacking an abhuman on the other side are two actions. It’s more a matter of focus than time. Drawing your sword and attacking a foe is all one action. Putting away your bow and pushing a heavy bookcase to block a door are two actions because each requires a different train of thought.
Foot, mouth. You don't need a justification for your simple action scheme and putting in something really stupid is way worse than putting in nothing. Actually, on a second thought, if you have a dumb justification for your rule, you should probably go over that rule again. Why can't I open a door and take a swing at someone in five to ten seconds, again?
Next is... ugh. The most poorly laid-out section of the book, as it happens. This is the best natural stopping point, so I'm going to cut this short.
Next Time: More rules! Joy.