Numenera Core Book

August you beautiful month!  The days seem to drag on more and more as the calendar nears GenCon, the wait being a gaming geek’s equivalent to water-boarding I presume, and any distraction from clock watching is surely welcomed.  Enter Monte Cook with his on-time delivery of the core rule book for his much anticipated new game – Numenera!

I eagerly snatched my pdf copy via DriveThruRPG last night and began devouring the pages this morning, what a beautiful book.  I’m impressed at the quick turnaround since the Kickstarter to get this 417 page book out to backers, nice work Mr. Cook!  A great distraction this is going to be over the next two weeks and I hope to find a chance to get in on some Numenera action while in Indy.

Numenera is a science fantasy roleplaying game set in the far distant future. Humanity lives amid the remnants of eight great civilizations that have risen and fallen on Earth. These are the people of the Ninth World. This new world is filled with remnants of all the former worlds: bits of nanotechnology, the dataweb threaded among still-orbiting satellites,  bio-engineered creatures, and myriad strange and wondrous devices. These remnants have become known as the numenera.

Player characters explore this world of mystery and danger to find these leftover artifacts of the past, not to dwell upon the old ways, but to help forge their new destinies, utilizing the so-called “magic” of the past to create a promising future.

Given that I’ve only had this book in my possession for a few hours I obviously can’t give it the in depth review it deserves, only a “first impression” based on a quick glance through the pages.  I’m definitely impressed by the size and look of the book, a well organized and beautifully illustrated edition that one would expect from an industry professional like Monte.

The core book is broken down into nine parts, the main sections for getting started, creating characters, playing the game and running the game are all there.  Additionally there are sections detailing the settings, creatures, the world of Numenera and several adventures.  A nice addition, and one I really appreciate, is an appendix in the final section that walks you through character creation.

Characters have 3 basic stats, or as the book describes it – “defining characteristics”; Might, Speed and Intellect.  You also have additional components to each of these stats: Pool and Edge which represents your innate ability and how well you use what you have.  Finally, the 3rd element that ties into all this is Effort – when you really need to get something done you can apply Effort.

Again, just glancing through this section in the little time I’ve had it appears that the system Monte Cook has come up with is simple yet contains a lot of substance and a nice bit of resource management.  I will have to get through some game play to see how the system really works and judge the overall feel, something I hope to do before too long.

There are 3 character types in Numenera; the Glaive, Nano and Jack.  The Glaive is your warrior class that uses weapons and armor.  Nanos are going to be your magic user class, for those who enjoy playing mages, wizards or witches.  Jacks are perhaps your bard?  The title Jacks representing “jacks of all trades”, they don’t use one weapon or skill exclusively but instead dabble in a bit of everything.  Each of these character types have tiers (up to tier 5 I believe), each tier increases your abilities and skills.

Now we get into some mechanics that are very new for me and I’ll only lightly touch on to avoid completely getting this wrong.  You begin to customize your character beyond the 3 types to truly make them unique by first choosing their “Descriptors”, which is explained as the way your character goes about his or her actions.  Some examples: Clever, Intelligent, Stealthy, Rugged, Strong, etc.

Character “Focus” is described at what really makes your character unique by giving you benefits as you create your character and as you gain a new tier.  The book suggests that no two player characters should have the same focus in any group. An example of focus;

At some point in your past, some of your organic parts were replaced with artificial components. (Alternatively, you belong to a secret race of biomechanical hybrids.) These artificial components might be subdermal, or they might resemble more overt metal or synth plating on your skin. They can also take the form of threadlike tendrils of circuitry winding across your flesh.

This is definitely an area I’d have to go through player creation and actual play to fully grasp, so I’ll leave further explanation for a later write-up.  For now, the focus options look to be very cool and some really interesting variations that will definitely make for some awesome PCs.

The game does use a d20 system; players take actions which the GM then determines the chance of failure based on difficulty and which player stat the action will use.  The difficulty of the action can be adjusted based on the character’s training, equipment or any special abilities the character may have that relates to the action being performed.  The player then rolls a d20 to determine success or failure by meeting or exceeding the task difficulty number.  Sounds simple enough!

The Numenera core book includes four unique adventures designed to not only help players learn the game but also new game masters to tell a story in the Numenera world.  The first adventure, “The Beale of Boregal” is supposed to be the first adventure for new GMs as it includes as much instruction as needed by a new GM.  The three remaining adventures each try to address different aspects of the game to give both players and the GM additional experience in dealing with various scenario types – a great way to get a new player’s feet wet.

Unfortunately what I’ve covered here is as much as I have been able to digest of the book so far.  I plan to carve out some significant time in the next week to hopefully get a more detailed post up before GenCon covering more of the character creation and game mechanics.  From the little amount I’ve been able to read and thumbing through the book as a whole, I’m very impressed and excited at what Monte Cook Games has produced.  Two thumbs up and I can’t wait until I’m ready to get a game of Numenera going at my local game shop!


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