Numenera is a science-fantasy tabletop RPG designed by Monte Cook in 2013. Set in the far future of Earth, vast stretches of time saw the rise and fall of many glorious civilizations, not all of them necessarily human. One billion years in the future, humanity has risen again to ascendancy in a world littered with the past remnants of old eras. Society is an odd mixture of classic fantasy elements and futuristic sci-fi: nations are a mixture of feudal aristocracies and isolated tribes, living in castles and citadels of prior civilizations powered by strange energies nobody knows how to maintain. Angulan Knights ride on xi-drakes while malfunctioning automatons plague villages too close to their abandoned laboratories. People infused with the omnipresent nanotechnology covering the planet in microscopic swarms are capable of great feats many view as magic (and they wouldn't be entirely wrong, either).
It is our own world, albeit one unrecognizable to us. It is a world of countless secrets, full of strange relics of the old world known as numenera
which are prized and feared by the planet's inhabitants.
It is the Ninth World, the latest in a long series of civilizations whose achievements are as incomprehensible to us as the World Wide Web is to our cro magnon ancestors.It is Numenera.
Tell Me About the System!
Numenera runs off the Cypher System,
a task resolution system where players roll all the dice and uses a D20 for most conflict.
Conflicts are rated on a Task Difficulty from 1 to 10, which can be increased or decreased by mitigating factors such as skill proficiency (or lack of it), proper equipment, and other circumstances. The difficulty generates a Target Number which is 3 times the Task Difficulty, which is then rolled against with a D20. If a Task Difficulty can be reduced to 0, then the character performing the action automatically succeeds.
Additionally, interesting effects can occur on a 1, 19, or 20 on the die roll, which can introduce beneficial effects and complications to the situation at hand.
Numenera's character creation comes in threes for its most important steps: the 3 main abilities are Might (strength and physical power), Speed (agility and grace), and Intellect (knowledge, common sense, social skills, and everything mental).
Then we have character Types, Descriptors, and Foci which describes your character in a sentence. "I'm an [adjective] [noun] who [verb]."
The descriptor's the adjective, the noun the type, and the focus the verb. For example, "I'm a clever nano who crafts illusions."
defines and flavors your character with various skills and advantages. Charming makes you good at social skills, Tough makes you physically resilient, Rugged makes you experienced in survival, etc.
There are 3 Types
in the game, which serve as Numenera's class system. Glaives
are warriors and masters at arms, unparalleled in physical supremacy. Nanos
are believed by many to be sorcerers and magicians due to their powers, but in reality their talents come from far stranger sources such as psychic powers, nanotechnology, and study of the numenera. Jacks
are versatile people proficient in all manner of skills, fighting styles, and supernatural attacks, but cannot match the combat techniques of the Glaive nor the "spells" of the nano.
Characters gain new abilities and powers by advancing in tiers,
starting out at First tier and going all the way up to Six.
A character's Focus
grants a special ability to your character, such as a natural electric current, the ability to control beasts, existing partially out of phase, and more mundane ones such as being a back-alley rogue or entertainer. Foci grant new abilities as a character gains tiers.
Tell me about the Numenera!
The RPG's namesake, numenera is the general term the Ninth World's inhabitants use for the relics of the previous worlds. Numenera are all kinds of things, from the vast machine complexes still in full power after millions of years to the information transmitted by the planet-wide "datasphere" to the visitors from other dimensions and alien planets.
The numenera are ill-understood devices and phenomena, but none can deny their existence for they can be found all over the Ninth World. A few nanos and Aeon Priests have gained some limited insight into the workings of newly discovered devices, allowing for advanced technological progress but just as often dabbling in dangerous powers beyond their abilities.
Numenera which take the form of physical objects are divided into cyphers, artifacts, oddities, and discoveries. The terminology is less a genuine scientific classification and more based upon their most practical discovered use. Cyphers are one-use items such as ingested pills and poisonous mixtures; artifacts are more or less permanent items which can consistently perform a similar or identical application such as a kinetic force shield and or a texture-changing chameleon cloak; oddities are strange items which have little practical value, such as a color-changing tube or a ceramic ring which gives the sensation of hands caressing one's body. Discoveries are usually large objects and structures which can't be easily transported, such as a floating amber monolith or self-producing bio lab pumping out strange new life.
Most numenera technology is very old and their current workings are not always their original intended functions.
Tell me about the Setting!
The vast majority of the Ninth World's landmass joined together into a supercontinent, leaving the rest of the globe covered in a gigantic ocean dotted with small islands here and there. Even though by this point in time the sun's nature should have changed to the point where life on Earth is not possible, but millions of years in the past something
happened to prevent life in our solar system from disappearing. Earth's moon is smaller now, with a wider rotation that causes the day to stretch into 28 hours, but the year's length has not changed so there are 313 days in a year.
The people of the Ninth World are a relatively isolated and disparate lot. Life in the Ninth World is not all that different from life on Earth circa 1000 AD: farming is omnipresent, people cook meals and heat metals over fire, and most societies are separated between a wealthy hereditary class and the peasants they administer. In some regions a merchant class has arisen, peasants who are affluent and skilled in a profitable trade but not part of the ruling class.
Known recorded human history began 900 years ago when a conclave of scholars combined their knowledge together. 400 years ago the first Amber Pope organized the Aeon Priests into the Order of Truth,
an organization dedicated to studying the numenera which eventually turned into its own quasi-religion dedicated to unearthing the past as humanity's greatest hope. In most communities the priesthood are looked upon with respect for their knowledge. They are a powerful order in the Steadfast, and the current Amber Pope is a major contributing factor to preventing the nine countries of that region from warring upon each other. Outside the Steadfast and in the Beyond the Order of Truth is much less prominent, its priests organized into isolated claves.
Languages, cultures, and religions vary wildly from one region to another. The sheer size of the Steadfast and Beyond, combined with the dangers of travel and relative lack of reliable long-distance communication means that most established nations and city-states developed their own societies. The Steadfast is more civilized, with a network of roads and shared language and religion, but even they have their own mores.
comprises the western reaches of the known world. The region has a collection of nine kingdoms with little in common aside from a shared religion. The nations might be more connected and settled, but they can be just as dangerous as the lands of the Beyond. Border disputes, violent power struggles between nobles, local tyrants, and the crowded slums of cities can just as easily spell an adventurer's end.
The lands to the east of the Black Riage mountain range are known as the Beyond,
a catch-all term for lands other than the Steadfast.The Beyond is a vast wilderness punctuated by the rare isolated community or city-state. What Aeon Priests exist there are largely separated from the Order of Truth and must make do with what they have. Many more settlements lack even that, having to discover the secrets of the numenera purely through trial and error. Sometimes these tamperings can be catastrophic, and it's not impossible for travelers to come upon a village whose inhabitants became flesh-eating monstrosities or vestigial extensions of some central alien intelligence.
Tell me about Torment: Tides of Numenera!
In addition to a table-top RPG, Numenera is also planned to have its own video game! It is a spiritual sequel of sorts to Planescape: Torment,
a story-driven game where the protagonist is the Last Castoff, the final vessel for the consciousness of an ancient man who managed to cast off his old form and be reborn in a new one to achieve a sort of immortality. It is being developed by inXile Entertainment,
and is one of Kickstarter's most high-profile projects, with 80,000+ backers and over $4 million raised!A first glimpse of gameplay via early Alpha footage.Useful Links and ResourcesOfficial Site.Torment: Tides of Numenera Site.Facebook page.Cypher System Products on Drive-Thru RPGNinth World Hub:
Numenera fan community.The Ninth World:
Submission-based fansite.Character Generator.