Well, ok, that was a hell of a trip (including this, it’s about 13k words). If anyone is really curious, the entirety of my run through Numenera can be found here:
- The Rules Bit
- GM Intrusion and Compels
- How to Judge Numenera
- Setting Stuff
- Technology and Toys
- GM section part 1
- GM Section Part 2
At this point, I’m all ready to run a game and am mostly just waiting for my hard copy to arrive. I don’t think it will be too critical in play if I operate out of a PDF, but I definitely want a physical copy to pass around during chargen at the very least. So until then, I’m just going to chew on it and see what comes to mind. My final thoughts, in no particular order:
The choice to go SUPER far future is one that is full of subtle nuances which don’t become apparent until you start pondering other ways to run Numenera. The two big ones are that it pretty much removes any idea of divinity and it markedly curtails certain stylistic decision. The divinity thing is pretty straightforward – there’s a taste element to it, but it’s the single biggest thing that keeps this from feeling entirely like a D&D reskin – but the style limits are a bit more interesting.
To illustrate, let’s contrast this with the latest version of Gamma World. Content-wise, there is almost nothing that appears Numenera which would be out of place in Gamma World, but the reverse is not true. While Gamma World’s premise (that a whole much of realities just went “smoosh”) allows for virtually infinite diversity, it is still built upon the foundation of a recognizable world. The ability to draw upon familiar things pushed through a lens of change is something that makes that setting resonate. This is why things like Gamma World and planet of the Apes are not great touchpoints for Numenera.
But it goes farther than that. It’s not just a lack of immediately recognizable ideas (like McDonalds or The Statue of Libery) but even broadly recognizable ideas are kind of out of bounds. That means that some of the hyper-future touchpoints that people might think of, like Moorcock’s Hawkmoon or King’s Dark Tower aren’t really applicable. Curiously, most of the fictional sources I would point to as useful for Numenera actually come out of video games. Make of that what you will.
So, this is something I’m doing in my own game, and I heartily encourage anyone else looking to play to embrace it. It is core canon that the Ninth World is explicitly multidimensional, with connections and touchpoints to other worlds. So far as I’m concerned, every game of Numenera is in its own world, one of the infinite Ninth Worlds floating in the ether. They may well connect and touch (and sometimes multiple stories may be told in the same world, but that’s up to the GM).
This may seem like a strange declaration, but it’s a polite way to kill Elminster. It is a declaration that you dig the game and it’s setting, and that the fact that you are making it your own is not a rejection of that core, just your own particular branch. So if, for example, you want some damn boats, your Numenera might have all the same parts with a larger, more active inner sea, and unknown lands out in the ocean. Because it’s a Ninth World, there’s no need to piss and moan over whether or not this “works” – you just do what you find cool.
Plus, it gets me airships if I want them.
Yeah, by now it should be very clear that I’m uncomfortable with how XP is used and I’m skeptical of how the effort system will work in play. I’ll give both of these things some opportunity in play, but I’m pretty confident that they’ll demand some hacking. Effort is, I think, likely to just be a function of tweaking the economy a bit to improve the flow. XP, however, is going to be a total knife fight.
The One Awesome Thing
If I had to call out the single coolest thing in the game, it would probably be Foci. Not only are the mechanically fun, but they say HUGE AMOUNTs about a game. They are not just mechanics, they are setting design. If you want to do a custom game in your own setting, you will absolutely want to make distinctive Foci (as well as remove some). There’s some great overlap here with other setting technology (thinking of 13th Age’s Icons and the backgrounds from Neverwinter). And as a bonus, these are going to be a fantastic inroad for players to design new Foci.
I genuinely wish the pages that were committed to Fasten (a small town) had gone to almost anything else. It’s not bad, but it’s dull. Worse, it’s dull in a space that’s surrounded by really interesting stuff – almost any of the surrounding ideas would have made a better (and by better I mean “more playable”) use of the space. I have similar feelings about Guran, but it’s got more playable hooks, so it’s a little more useful.
This may seem very picky, but it’s more of a testimony to the array of interesting stuff in the setting. To ignore them all in order to zoom in on a generic town feels like a wasted chance.
- I’m happy I backed it. It’s lovely, and was absolutely a value.
- I do not recommend or un-reccommend it. I do not know you or your table, and it would be pure hubris for me to do so. I just hope I’ve given some information to help you make that decision yourself.
- I look forward to running it.
- It is not the second coming of gaming, but it’s neat.
- How much it holds my interest beyond initial play is going to depend entirely upon my experience.
- This is a charismatic game, not a doctrinal one. The rules are designed to give the GM and players greater creative leeway, not greater creative support. up tot you how that intersects with your tastes.
- The terminology got less annoying with exposure, so that’s a plus, but it’s still a little wacky.
- This plus the single continent thing has lead to my shortest, most tongue in cheek review of Numenera: MONTE HATES GODS AND BOATS. ↩
- The closest literary equivalent one might point to is The Dying Earth, and there is certainly some overlap in how far removed things are from anything known to mankind, but there is a huge tonal difference between Numenera and The Dying Earth, which make it tricky to apply directly (though Dying Earth makes a great past or future for Numenera, depending upon how you look at it) ↩
- This gets its name from a tale told on the Sons of Kryos podcast, of a D&D game where the opening event is the murder of Elminster, the iconic NPC of the Forgotten Realms. This sort of action is a clear dramatic statement that the game is not going to be dictated by the official canon of the setting, and that the table owns the game. ↩