Friday, August 2, 2013

Reading Over the Numenera RPG Core Book Part Three

So, after Chapter Two of the Numenera RPG Core Book ends a bit…ahem…abruptly…we move on to Part Two of the book, which makes Part Three of my series of posts. Part Two of the Numenera Core Book is about Character. Ah, that’s something my mother wishes I had. Moving right along.

The character part of the book is broken down into five chapters: character creation, character types, character descriptor, character focus, and character equipment. Oh, it’s a lot easier than creating a character for Rolemaster or Pathfinder, I’ll tell you that before I even get into it. In fact, it may even be easier than Fate Core or Apocalypse World. Let’s have a look.

So, characters have three base statistics: Might, Speed, and Intellect. Each of these has two ratings: Pool and Edge. The Pool is the basic rating we would normally expect. It gives us the basic “power level” of the stat. As your character takes damage, they do not lose hit points or anything like that. No, they lose ranking in their stat pool. You can also spend points from the stat pool, showing your character is expending effort. That is Effort. Effort sets a cost and a limit for the amount characters can expend from their pools. The amount you spend from a stat pool is reduced by the Edge for that Pool. So, your stats are much more than a measuring stick. They instead become an expendable and precious resource at the same time. There are some nuances I did not explain here, because you should buy the book or at least join in a game to understand the full set of mechanics.

A Numenera Glaive, Jack, & Nano. Beautiful art.


+Monte Cook  said this was one of his core design philosophies in approaching Numenera. He wanted to make the game so that, as characters went through more, tried harder, they would become exhausted. They would become easier to defeat. This is the way he did it and I think it’s beautiful. It might seem odd at first. It did at first to me. However, once you see it in practice, it is almost intuitive.

There is another great line here, where they talk about tiers. Tiers are essentially character levels in the Numenera RPG. Here, they are giving a brief overview on what it means to level, not necessarily how to level.

“…the Ninth World is about discovery of the past and what it means for the future.”

Next, we also get our first glimpse at the meat of character creation. Numenera is a game about telling awesome stories of awesome characters in an awesome world. I stole that from +Jonathan Henry , because he gets paid every time he uses the word awesome. So, maybe I’ll get paid for using the word awesome, too. That would be, well, awesome.

In Numenera, you do not choose a race and class like you might in Pathfinder or D&D. You do not tell stories of previous adventures as you would with Fate to come up with aspects. You do not pick a sheet from a play book and make some basic choices as you would in Apocalypse World. You also do not kind of wing it and create the character as you go along as would be the case in a game of Fiasco.

Instead, in Numenera, your character is the sum of a single sentence, really. Yes, there are stats, but everything is told and derived from this single sentence. Are you ready for this magic phrase? It isn’t super long.

“I am an adjective noun who verbs.”

It may sound weird. I know it did to me at first. I am telling you, though, it really is pretty neat (awesome). This sentence covers the character’s Descriptor, Type, and Focus. Types include the glaive (warrior), jack (as in ‘jack of all trades’), and the nano (wizard/sage/technophile). The main book has 12 character descriptors, so do not be surprised any minute if you see homebrew ones start to pop up online any minute now. Heck, some are probably already out there. Then, the focus gives your character that little something extra. It more clearly defines them.

The character types and foci may grant the characters special abilities, which is covered next. Many of those special abilities, like brain melting, might have a cost associated with them, which means you must spend points for the character’s stat pool in order to be able to use them.

Skills are pretty broad in Numenera. They can come from that sentence we talked about above. Or, you can choose a skill when first created or as characters increase in tiers. Here’s the thing, this is not Palladium. You will not have a list of 20 plus skills for your character…ever. In fact, the character sheets that were going around before to cover everything were about one-third a sheet of paper. You also do not get ranks in skills. You are either not trained in it, trained, or specialized in it. Not trained means you simply do not get a bonus. Trained means you get to lower the difficulty of related tasks by one. Specialized means you can reduce related task difficulties by two—never more than two.


That’s Chapter Three. I’ll go over the rest in a bit, but first I want to hear from you. Am I giving away too much? Or, am I toeing the line just enough?