Note: Well, we're officially past the interest check Phase. I've got a number of interested players, and I'm afraid I'm going to have to cap the player count here to make sure everyone gets fair input. Over the next few days, I'll be adding bits and pieces to this page about core rules everyone should know going in and helping with character sheets.Numenera at a glance...
ďAny sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.Ē - Sir Arthur C. ClarkeWelcome to the 9th world!
Imagine, if you will, that our civilization grew to it's absolute peak. Nanotechnology, cybernetics, terraforming, all things easily within our grasp. We've explored the stars, seen other worlds, seen other realities, even unlocked the secrets of our own bodies, altering our very DNA as we please, even blurring the line between man and machine. Then, at the height of it all, we simply... disappeared. No one knows why, the and we is lost to history, perhaps humanity found a better home in another universe, perhaps they went too far with their own experiments, perhaps they wiped themselves out in a global war. The answer is unclear, but for whatever reason, humanity is gone, leaving behind an empty Earth for whoever may come next.
Imagine this happening, again and again, with 8 other civilizations, some human, some not, some not even originating from our world, each finding themselves on our world, reaching unbelievable heights, then vanishing, with no reason as to why left behind. What we do know is that of these eight past worlds, at least a few were not human, at least one had the technology to alter the world with terraforming and nano machines, and at least one found a way to increase the life span of the now-orange sun, at least one placed satellites around the world, providing a source of energy for some devices, as well as the data sphere that still exists in the world, and several of these civilizations, whatever may have happened to them, left things behind to be found by adventures ninth workers. These seemingly magical pieces of the past are referred to collectively as The Numenera.
All of this is merely backstory. Where Numenera begins, humans have made a return in the Ninth World. At the time of Numenera's setting, humankind has achieved about 900 years of recorded history, existing in a dark ages society. The Ninth world is all these people have ever known, including those descended from off worlders, known as visitants. The fact that strange ruins that "magically" distort gravity in the nearby forest, or that the vast, hard, smooth expanse between two towns is is a huge piece of metal from some ancient project is no stranger to them than the fact that the sky is blue or that water is wet. Itís simply how the world is. The core of Numenera is the quote from Clarke at the top of the page. Most Ninth Worlders see Numenera and the strange things that happen whenever Numenera involved as magic. Even some trained in itís use may believe themselves to be wizards or mages, and the focus required to use psionics or the tapping on the screen of a device to simply be the way of conjuring the spirits within a device or communicating with the powers within. Only the most learned scholars of the era, the Aeon Priests, founders of a quasireligious group known as the Order of Truth have even begun to accept the possibility that Numenera may be something other than magic.
The single, massive continent that makes up the majority of the Ninth World can be harsh at times, and people rely on Numenera, the adventurers that seek it out, and the Aeon Priests that interpret itís use for everything from agriculture to security. Many people make a living, or more, seeking out relics of the past.
Numenera is a game about exploration, storytelling, and discovery. While combat is involved, and will happen in this campaign, itís not meant to be the focal point. In fact, experience isnít gained at all from fights. Instead, characters grow by exploring their world, making discoveries, finding ways to solve problems, and interacting with one another and the world around around them.Getting Started
Monte Cook's How to Play Numenera video is a great way to get started, as it shows all the basics of how the game and it's system works. For those that aren't interested in a video, I'll explain the rules in brief below. After the video, the Character Creation Walkthrough
on numenera's website is a useful tool for putting together a character as well. Alternately, there's a number of Character Generation Tools
you can use as well to make a character as well. There are plenty of places online to get a copy of the "Numenera Player's Guide" as well, and PDF copies are relatively cheap. Naturally, I'll be happy to help any interested player with character creation if the need me to as well.The System in a Nutshell
Numenera's system is incredibly easy to use. Rather than trying to memorize an endless list of challenge ratings, skills, and stats, when a player chooses to perform a task, the GM rates the task on a scale of 1 to 10 for how difficult the task would be, 1 being a routine task that nearly anyone can do, 5 being something that even a person trained in the task would have a 50/50 shot at it, 7-10 being virtually impossible, legendary feats. The number is then multiplied by 3, which is the target number to meet or beat on a d20 to complete the task.But doesn't that make some challenges (7-10) impossible?
Indeed it does, which is why the difficulty is adjusted before the roll, based on a character's skill, as well as any help they're getting from a tool or ally. A player trained in a skill reduces the difficulty by one step, two if they're specialized. While a 5 is a 15 to beat on a d20, with about a 25% chance of success, a person specialized in the task can reduce it to a 3, or a 9 to meet or beat. That's a little over a 50/50 shot, and why a 5 is rated as a task a person skilled in the task would succeed about half the time. If that same person also had the right tool for the job, that's another step down, and another again if they're being helped by an ally.
In addition, characters can apply effort to a task they're attempting. To apply effort, a player spends 3 points from the stat pool most relevant to the action (might, speed, or intellect), though that can be reduced with an edge in that stat. Each level of effort a character puts into a task reduces the difficulty by one step.
Combat works the same way. In Numenera, the players roll all the dice. When attacking, they make an attack roll. When being attacked, the player makes a speed roll to dodge, block, or otherwise defend the attack. The challenge of the task is equal to the NPC/monster's difficulty level (also a 1-10 scale).
There's a few more rules regarding ranged attack/movement distance and circumstantial rules, but we can get into that more if there's enough interest in the game.
There is, so here they are...Combat, distance, and damage.
As I mentioned, many aspects of combat with NPCs or creatures are easy to figure out just by looking at a creature's challenge rating, or level. Unless the game otherwise states it, that's their difficulty for all tasks related to it. Bluffing a level 4 NPC is a level 4 challenge, hitting him is a level 4 attack challenge, if he attacks a PC, that's a level 4 defense roll.Some PCs and creatures have modifiers, such as an NPC who'se a particularly skilled swordsman may attack as a level 4, despite being level 3, or an especially hardy creature may defend as a level higher.
Armor is easy to figure out in Numenera; when a character or creature takes damage, their armor value is subtracted from the damage sustained. If a character with 2 armor gets hit for 4, they take 2 damage. Unlike the PCs, all NPCs simply have a health value. When it reaches 0, the NPC is dead, unless the PCs specifically mention they were attempting to incapacitate. There's no mechanical difference between lethal and nonlethal attacks, just a statement of one's intent, and some roleplaying (attacking with the flat of the sword, for example).
When a PC is attacking, they can choose to use might or speed when applying effort to an attack. When a PC is defending, they almost always are making a speed roll, with the exception of specific special attacks, or abilities the PC may posses, such as a Nano's resonance shield, which allows them to defend with intellect instead. Just as when making any other roll, a PC may choose to apply effort before making their roll.
Damage dealt is dependent on weapon size. Most weapons, including Numenera, do a set amount of damage, instead of a roll. You can always rely on a medium sized weapon to deal 4 damage with a standard attack.Light
Weapons, including daggers, whips, worn blades, blowguns, unarmed attacks (unmodified by skills), and smaller numenera devices such as a buzzer, inflict 2 points of damage.Medium
weapons, including spears, bows, crossbows, maces, spears, staves, most full sized blades, axes, and so on deal 4 points of damage. Heavy
weapons, such as a greataxe, halberd, greatsword, mauls, and so on inflict 6 points of damage, but require both hands to use, and often require special training most character's won't begin with.
When attacking, a player can choose to apply effort to the attack, which makes it easier to hit, reducing the difficulty to hit by one step, or a player can apply effort to damage, dealing three additional points of damage per effort level applied. Both aspects apply to a player's maximum effort level. In other words, if a player has an effort level of 1, he can apply effort to hit or to damage. A player with an effort level of 2 can apply one to each, or two levels of either to either aspect, and so on.
In addition, rolling a 17 on an attack provides a bonus point of damage, an 18 grants an additional 2 points. On a 19, a a player may choose to apply an additional 3 points of damage or a minor effect
. A minor effect may be something such as dazing an opponent, making him easier to hit for a round, knocking them back a few steps, or a minor effect granted by a focus, such as catching the target on fire. On a 20, a character may apply 4 points of bonus damage or a major effect
. A major effect could include knocking an opponent to the ground, performing a quick follow-up attack, or a foci's major effect, such as shattering a weapon with kinetic force.Range
Like many elements, range is rather simplified in Numenera, focusing more on the narrative of combat. There are three main ranges that all weapons, abilities, and esoteries will be divided into.Immediate
range is anywhere a character could reach in a few steps, anywhere from right next to the character to no more than 10 feet away. Needless to say, most melee weapons are immediate range weapons, with the exception of weapons that can be thrown.Short
range is anything longer than immediate range, but still within 50 feet. Many abilities, such as a nano's Onslaught, fall into this range. A character can usually move a short range within a single round.Long
range is anywhere further than 50 feet, within 100. Most bows, crossbows, and ranged Numenera devices are long range weapons. Without the aid of cyphers, abilities, or artifacts, a character should not be able to close a long range gap in less than 2 rounds.
Anything further than 100 feet will often be given as a number. Weapons that can strike beyond long range exist, though they are rare.Damage and Recovery
Most attacks will require a speed defense roll. Some may require special, or even multiple rolls. If a PC fails to defend from an attack, for example, they may then be required to make a Might defense roll to resist the poison coating the blade they were struck by. If a character does sustain damage, unless otherwise specified by the attack/GM, the damage is applied to the character's might pool. When a character's might pool is 0, they sustain damage to their speed pool, then finally, to intellect. Any time a pool hits 0, a character shifts on the Damage Track.
Characters have 4 possible conditions on the damage track; Hale, impaired, debilitated, and dead.Hale
characters are perfectly healthy. All 3 pools are above 0, and they suffer no penalties (at least not from the damage track).
When a stat pool drops to 0, a character becomes impaired
. They are still able to fight and perform tasks, but they suffer a penalty due to exhaustion. Applying effort to any task costs an additional point from the respective pool, and he ignores any damage bonuses or effects granted from rolling well. If an impaired character had a stat drop to 0, they become debilitated.Debilitated
characters are unable to take any action other than moving (usually crawling an immediate distance). If a debilitated character's speed is 0, they are unable to do even that. A debilitated character who has a stat drop to 0 is dead.
Using the official rulebook's description of the state here, because I find it amusing' "Dead
is dead."Recovery Rolls
Four times a day, a character can make a recover roll to gain some points in a pool back. The first roll takes 1 round to make. The second in a day requires a 10 minute rest. The third takes an hour rest, and the final takes a 10 hour rest, or essentially, going to sleep. To keep things simple, I intend to refresh player's recover rolls every morning.
When making a recovery roll, a player regains 1d6+1 points to a pool of their choosing, selected before the roll is made. A player cannot recover past their maximum, nor can they apply 'overheal' to another stat pool.Any time a character brings a stat pool from 0 to a positive value, they recover one step on the damage track.
An impaired character that recovers some points in his Might, for example, becomes Hale by doing so.There are attacks, poisons, and events that may occur that will shift a player on the damage track immediately.
It's possible a character could get poisoned and become impaired even with full pools. In this case, if one of his pools dropped to 0, he would shift to debilitated with only one stat pool at zero, and shift back to impaired upon recovering in that pool. If a character's damage track is out of sync with their stat pools in this way, they can spend one recover roll use to move back towards Hale on the damage track, though they don't heal any other points when doing on.
There are also recovery items in the game, both Numenera and otherwise. Using one of these items to recover a pool above 0 will also shift a character towards Hale on the damage track. Choosing/Creating a Character
Creating a character in Numenera is as easy as filling out a sentence. All PCs in Numenera come from the same structure; "I am a(n) [adjective] [noun] that [verb]s
determines your class. There are only three choices in Numenera, which may not sound like a lot, but the way the other parts of character creation flesh them out, the possibilities are nearly endless.Glaives
are something of the fighters of Numenera. That doesn't necessarily mean melee, either. A 'swift glaive who carries a quiver' can be a incredible ranger. Glaives get the most options to fine tune their combat abilities, with plenty of choices for both melee and ranged weapons alike, along with skills related to survival and endurance. In short, if your party's physical well-being is your primary concern, you may be a Glaive.Nanos
are the wizards and mages of the Ninth World. Whether their powers come from nanotechnology, a gene mutation that grants psionic powers, or something else entirely is up to you and the backstory you choose to write. Nanos are the most likely characters to view the technology of the past worlds as exactly that, though there are still plenty who believe they are magical, and with their powerful spells, known as esoteries, backing their claims, who'se going to argue?Jacks
, derived from a jack of all trades, are somewhere in between the two. Often, a jack will use both weapons and esoteries to get by. While they have the largest variety of options, they also tend to gain new combat maneuvers at a slightly slower pace, with the exception of a few abilities that focus on the finesse of combat over power. There are also a few skills that only jacks can use, and often, out of combat, the party will rely on their jack to tackle obstacles they cannot.
, or descriptor, helps define your character. There's a bunch listed in the Player's guide and on the generation tool I linked, and two many to list here. Each description gives at least a small boost to a character, such as some stat points or even an edge, some give large boosts but also some penalties. (A stealthy character, for example, gains a bonus to their speed stat pool, and starts trained in a variety of stealth related tasks. What they have in stealth, however, they lack in swiftness, and any task that requires speed, such as running, is one step more difficult.)
is your character's focus, what makes them unique. Many of them are relatively self explanatory. "Carries a quiver", for example, defines a character as an archer, and gives bonuses that reflect as much. While some of them may seem class specific, every focus is a valid choice for any character. "Bears a halo of fire" has obvious benefits for mages looking to define themselves as a fire mage, but a Glaive with a burning weapon and the ability to toss a fireball at ranged foes can be quite a terror.
I'd prefer to, for this game, keep to the descriptors and foci listed in the Core Rulebook (or player's guide, which is just a segment of the CRB) and "Character Options" books for the sake of balance in this campaign. All the options available are in the generator I liked to earlier.Character Advancement and Experience Points
Every character starts off at tier one, giving them access to their tier one abilities from both their class and their focus. While a character's class tends to see a number of benefits each tier, a focus typically adds one new ability to a character's arsenal per tier. Unlike many RPGs, the point of Numenera isn't to be constantly increasing various numbers. While higher tier characters are certainly more powerful, often that comes in the form of the larger variety of things they are able to do, rather than a straight amount of damage or health.
Any time a character has enough experience he can spend 4XP to do any of the following, once per tier.1.) Get 4 points to add to you stat pool maximum. 2. Increase your Edge in a stat by 1.
For every point of Edge you have, it costs 1 less point to use effort or abilities related to that stat. A nano with an Int Edge of 1, for example, can cast Hedge Magic
without spending any points. A character with an Edge of 3 in a stat can apply a level of Effort to a related task for free. A character with an Edge of 5 can apply 2 levels of Effort for free.3. Increase your Effort Level by 1.
All characters start with an effort level of 1. Your effort level determines the maximum amount of effort you can apply to a single action. Applying effort to an attack allows a character to either decrease the difficulty to hit by one step, or increase the damage of the attack. At effort level 2, you can do one of each, or apply two effort to a single task (climbing, swimming, numenera, etc.) to decrease the difficulty multiple steps. A high tier character will be able to apply multiple levels of effort, making even seemingly impossible tasks seem mundane if they simply try hard enough. 4. Choose from a variety of skills.
This 4th slow is the most varied. You can use this perk to give yourself a new skill, negate an inability, or become specialized in a skill you're already trained in. While the rulebook offers some suggestions for skills, there's no actual skill list, and characters are free to deice for themselves what their skills might be. You could, for example, combine bluffing, intimidation, and charming into one skill you call 'persuasion' or 'conversation', or throw climbing, jumping, tumbling, etc, into one blanket 'acrobatics' skill. As long as you can describe, in character, how the skill applies to your situation, you'll get the training bonus. 'Assess Danger' is a great example of a skill from the video that's not in the book. The only catch is a skill has to be GM approved. You won't be able to make a skill called 'doing stuff' and apply it to every roll you make. Furthermore, you can't use this skill to say you are trained in attacking, defense, or any kind of weapon. There are specific skills related to classes and foci that will give those benefits.
In addition, you can use this skill to make yourself trained in a specific special attack, such as a Glaive's "Thrust", or a Nano's "Onslaught" ability. As long as a character is using that specific skill, they'll get the difficulty reduction towards hitting the target. (Yes, that does mean that if a character trained in swords and in "thrust" uses thrust with a sword, difficulty is reduced by two steps).
Lastly, you can use the skill slot to do any of the following;Add +2 to your recovery rolls
- 4 times a day, you can make a 1d6+1 roll to recover lost points. This skill adds to the result. Reduce the penalties for wearing armor by 1.
Armor costs a certain number of might points per hour to wear, as well as a straight reduction to your speed pool max. Each level of this reduces that by 1.Learn a new technique/ability:
Glaives learn a new combat trick, nanos a new esotery, jacks a new trick of the trade. In all three cases, it has to be a skill from the character's current tier or any lower tier.Once a character has done all 4 advancements
, they increase to the next tier. It takes 16XP in total to g up a tier, at which point all tier 2 bonuses are immediately applied. A character can then take the 4 bonuses again to begin working towards their next tier.Experience is rarely gained in combat.
There is no benefit to rushing sword first into every new encounter. Oftentimes, more will be earned through exploring one's options and making new discoveries. Expeirence points in Numenera are mainly earned in a few ways.Finding an artifact
- any time an artifact is discovered, the players are awarded 1xp each. This doesn't count in situations such as an attacking bandit dropping his weapon,Making a discovery
- When the players learn something about their world, or figure out how to use a discovery, XP is awarded. This may be as simple as stumbling across the surface of a giant clock within the dessert, or as complex as working together to move an ancient lightning turret from a numenera tower to a small fringe village in dire need of protection.GM Intrustion
- My personal favorite. At any time, the GM can intrude on a story, adding a new twist to the plot. This could be the snapping of a rope on a bridge, a bandit suddenly pulling a cypher from his pocket that sucks a PC's health, an AI companion going haywire at an unexpected moment, a trap door opening, and many, many other possibilities. Intrusion is used to inject new excitement, or steer the plot of a tale. Whenever an intrustion is used, the player most effected by it is awarded one XP. That player then chooses another player to gain one as well. In the event that the intrusion effects the entire party equally (you all fall in the trap door), the entire party gains one XP.GM/Player driven awards
- Hand in hand with discoveries, XP may occasionally be an award for a job well done. Similarly, a player may take a mission upon themselves that would reward XP upon completion. Perhaps a PC's hometown is destroyed, and they vow revenge on the ones that did it. Upon completion of their personal agenda, XP may be awarded.Variety of Numenera
Numenera devices can be nearly anything. Often times, how a device is used is not necessarily it's original use. A device a player throws for a detonation, for example, may have actually been the power cell of a machine, not necessarily a grenade. Most Numenera is beyond our comprehension, which is why a skilled craftsman might be able to turn a single use detonator into a ray emitter. To the people of the Ninth world, Numenera appears magical, and no two devices necessarily moreso than the other. A Ninth Worlder, for example, would have no way of knowing that an electric force field is any more advanced than a two way radio. In fact, the radio may seem like the more powerful artifact to such a person, as it arguably can be used more ways, and the spell that binds the two is 'invisable'.
For the most part, Numenera come in four flavors.Discoveries
are any kind of Numenera a player can't take with them. Whether it's the ruins of a previous world's facility with still functional devices, a 'glimmer' from the datanet that can't be physically touched, or a half-organic, half synth beast, these are all discoveries. Not all discoveries the player will make are necessarily Numenera, but all Numenera of these kinds are discoveries.Cyphers
are single use items that are used up and discarded. That might be a pill that grants a bonus, a device that causes a detonation when thrown, a device that generates a force field for a short time, and many, many more varieties. They come in two varities; anoetic and occultic. Anoetic cyphers are easy to use and understand; throw this, swallow this, drink this for it to do it's thing. Occultic cyphers tend to be more complex, bearing touchscreens, keyboards, wires, buttons, and so on. Many seem to have many settings, but only one produces the desired effect. These count as two cyphers in terms of determining the maximum carried.
Cyphers are typically found through scavenging locations or defeated foes. A player can make an intellect action to search an area, which usually takes between 15 minutes and an hour. Often, Cyphers such as pills and enhancements can be found in various ruins. The blood or venom of a synthetic beast may be scavenged to make a healing tonic or rage inducer. The power cell of an automaton might make a decent detonator. The exposed wires of an unknown device might make an excellent shock prod. Ninth worlders find many different uses for the same items.
Because of their nature, Cyphers are dangerous. Many people advise against carrying too many at once. Most people are too afraid of what could happen to bear more than a few cyphers at a time, and those that do often end up as examples for the rest.Artifacts
are more complex devices. Often, the benefits they offer aren't as powerful as cyphers. An artifact may be a force field generator that provides a natural +1 to armor indefinitely, as opposed to a cypher that provides 5 armor for 10 minutes. All Artifacts can be used multiple times, some have a chance of depletion, while others do not.Oddities
are similar to artifacts in that they are not single use items. The difference between an artifact and an oddity is that an oddity doesn't seem to have a purpose other than interest or entertainment value. A piece of glass in a colorful casing that displays alien images and icons, for example, or a tube made of synth that gives a soft glow when shaken, or a pair of shoes bearing stones that light up when the wearer takes a step. Often, oddities will have no real use or purpose other than to provide some intrigue or flavor. There may be a few exceptions to the rule, such as an item that measures distance of an object if the user studies to decipher the readout.
Artifacts and Oddities come in many different forms and have many different appearances that fall into four categories, scavanged, cobbled, bonded, and fashioned. Scavenged technology is exactly that. Say, for example, the party defeats an automaton warrior, claiming the arm of the robot as their own, and discover that if two loose wires are crossed, it still fires a ray. Cobbled technology tends t look like multiple devices, or parts thereof, patched together to serve a function. Say the PCs get tired of crossing the wires and getting a jolt every time they want to fire that ray emitter, so they find another device with a button that activates it, salvaging the butting to use to activate the ray emitter. Bonded devices are much rarer, and show a great deal of skill. Let's say the PCs brought that robot arm to an Aeon Priest. After much study, they remove all the unimportant parts, casing the emitter in a much less cumbersome stock of their own design, and giving it an easy to use, reliable trigger mechanism, as one would see on a crossbow. The end result looks much more refined, and you can no longer tell it was pulled from a scrap heap.
Lastly, let's say that same priest learns enough from that emitter to design his own from varies pieces of tech, or even pieces he makes himself, crafting an entirely new item for the ninth world, based on technology of the past. This is a fashioned item, the rarest of the rare, and unlikely to be seen too often without a PC who Crafts Wondrous Items in the party.Disclaimers
There are a few things I feel I should mention to anyone interested in playing, just to get any deal breakers out of the way early.
- I don't have as much time to dedicate online as I used to these days. While I can promise at least 2 posts a week, and that more will likely occur, I can't make promises beyond that. I should also note that weekends are especially busy for me, so weekend posts will be a little on the infrequent side.
- This will be my first time GMing a system game online, as well as my first time ever GMing Numenera, and to be honest, the first time in about 10 years I've GMed something that wasn't freeform. There's a chance I'll make the occasional mistake.
- Numenera is a fantastic, weird world, filled with all kinds of surprises, some of which may be a bit nonsensical at times. Prepare for the unexpected, the bizarre, the strange.
- Due to the nature of the game, from the combat to to genetic mutations to all the fun things you'd expect to see in a dark ages, post apocalyptic fantasy world, I'm planning on running this game in the EX section. I'm not, planning on springing a bunch of EX sexual elements on everyone, especially with no warning, but I wanted to be sure everyone was okay with where I'm planning to put this.