Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Numenera RPG Actual Play Report

This past Sunday, I had a chance to run a one-shot of the Numenera RPG by +Monte Cook  for new players. I repeated the experiment on Monday night. Monday night’s group was big enough, however, that we split the group into two. +Jonathan Henry ran the second group. In the months we have been running games through Google + Hangouts, we have not seen this kinds of interest before. Some things went off without a hitch. Some hiccups occurred. But, in all, everyone enjoyed the games. Let’s go over it.

Sunday’s game was a bit busy. My in person group didn’t show up, except for Jon, my wife, and me. So we opened a Google Hangout. Four additional players showed up. It was a bit much, but we gave it a whirl anyhow. My wife has access to my PDFs and Jon pre-ordered, so he has access to his PDFs. There was another player with access to the books, although he hadn’t had a chance to read through everything yet. Jon and Jennifer already had characters, so we used the Numenera character generator for everyone. Then, I went through their options one by one to fill in sheets, more or less. That process really only took about 10-15 minutes per character. The big slow down and issue here was the size of the Numenera Core PDF. That 75M file moves a bit slow, even on a decent computer.

What I had done for a one shot was basically give the group a mission that had them travelling from southwest to northeast in order to access some mines that had a new mineral. Along the path, they ran into some large lizards, about a meter long including tails. The group fought them off, but the combat took awhile. There are two reasons for this. The dice were against us and there were simply too many people. While everyone was having fun, one player stepped down as he’d been through playtesting before and another needed to get up  early. I continued the adventure with the group showing up at the town at the end of the in-book adventure, the Beale of Boregal. The players got through the ending a little faster than I expected. Altogether, it was less than 3 hours of play including creation and answering questions.

The second night, I ran the same adventure while Jon ran something entirely different with his group.  We created characters using the same fashion, but all players needed a character and there were no in-person players. One player did request a pregen, so he used my wife’s stealthy nano who focuses mind over matter. Otherwise, we used the generator and ran through as I had the night before. Doing a screenshare on G+ of the PDF seemed to speed things along. During the second hame, using a G Drive document to jot all the characters down in. In fact, I totally forgot we had done up a Numenera playmat. That probably would’ve helped.

This time, the group decided to avoid the lizards, so I had thrown an adolescent cragworm at them. They killed it quickly. Then, they too moved on the last part of the Beale of Boregal adventure. They also made quick work of freeing Boregal. Interesting both groups freed him rather destructive, but straight forward manners. Ah, the benefits of a force cube. But, neither group really wanted to deal with the Magistrate killing people. That wasn’t their problem. The second group was prepared to blackmail him for their silence, though.

There were a number of take away items I thought I would share here:

The rules are simple, but there are things that people are still going to be familiarizing themselves with. For example, on the first night, I forgot to lower the difficulty of light weapons. It was a simple matter and didn’t disrupt gameplay. I remembered for the second night, though. I also remembered to offer tactical and cooperative options on the second night, which I had forgotten on the first night.

Overall, the players and I have all come to the conclusion that armor is expensive to wear. Most have created characters that do not wear armor, because of the Speed and Might Cost. I know others on the Ninth World Hub have essentially called me crazy, but that’s been the consensus from players so far.

There is another thing that has bothered us a little bit. That is cyphers. These things are all over the place, come in different forms, have all sorts of different effects, and are good for one use. How then are our characters supposed to discover their actual effectiveness. This is one place where we do not see the rules supporting the narrative. Suggestions have been that cyphers not be throw away items, but have limited uses, because the whole throw away concept is kind of bothersome to some players as well. They pointed out that the only throwaway items they were used to from other RPGs were potions and scrolls, but there were never limited to carrying such a small amount.

The next item that came up was where perhaps some narrative was lacking. Players mentioned they see these characters in the art throughout the book. Those characters look like bad asses. They have cybernetics, glowing blue energy, weird weapons, etc. As I explained it, that is two things. One, it is a narrative description. I referred them back to the background narratives for some of the types. Hey, that nano might be fully wired, it just doesn’t give them the uber powers of a Shadowrun character with half a point of Essence left. The other thing is, some of these characters may be well beyond Tier 1, having accumulated advancements, artifacts, etc. I partly blame myself for not describing it how I imagine it should be for adding flavor to the characters. However, I feel that perhaps the book fell just short of this where it didn’t grab us by the face and say “Hey, be creative!” with our character descriptions, although it certainly led by example.

A number of these kinks will be corrected by our regular games, long running campaigns that Jon and I both plan on running. We’ll have one in person game here locally and we will probably each run a game online through Google Hangouts. And, those games will probably play off of one another, where things done by characters in Jon’s campaign will affect the characters in my game and vice-versa.

Overall, people had a lot of fun. I’ll probably run a few more one shots. I’m not a big one shot fan, but I am a big Numenera fan. I’ll probably also be running some local demos here.

I think one of the coolest things about the game for me so far—running it that is—is the people that I totally wouldn’t expect to be interested, because of the games they normally play, people who flat out said on more than one occasion that they had no interest in the game, people that were not sure about the game, now being interested and—in some cases—even excited about the game. They read my blog posts, they have heard Jon and I talk about it in Giant Dragons’ Gamer Chat on G+. We didn’t brow beat anybody, but some saw the game through one shot, some asked questions, and now some are hankering to play or grab a book and run their own. So, that right there is a great sign.