Ring Side Report-Review of the Numenera RPG

Product- Numenera RPG

 

Producer- Monte Cook Games

Price- Base book is $40 with a player specific book costing less

TL;DR-GO BUY THIS NOW 100%

 

Basics- WELCOME TO THE WORLD OF TOMORROW!  Numenera takes place 1 BILLION years in the future.  The world has risen and fallen eight times before and you now live in the ninth world.  Previous worlds have been galaxy spanning empires or inter dimensional kingdoms.  Besides the fiction of this world, this RPG also debuts the novel Cypher System.  The Cypher System is an extremely simplified system where only players roll the dice.  This one book represents a completely new paradigm in RPGs.

 

Mechanics- Let’s break the mechanics of the book down into the system, the characters, experience points, ranges, and items.  Read ahead, but know that its 5/5

System- The system is a d20 based system, except it’s not the standard d20 system from 3.x.  In this system, every NPC or task has a level.  When a player character wants to perform a task, the character must roll three times the tasks level to succeed.  When a character fights something/someone, the PC must roll three times the things level to succeeded on an attack or defense.  The same goes for any checks such as climb or seduce.  What makes this interesting, is the game master NEVER rolls dice when it come so the story.  Players have all the controls.  Which leads me to characters…..

 

Characters- Players make characters in less than five minutes. That is a promise.  Every character is an adjective noun who verbs.  Noun is the classes which are fighter, rouge, or wizard/cleric.  The book uses specialized names, but those are the basics.  Each class has several levels with powers that each character can select.  Adjective is a onetime bonus to your character that gives you abilities and describes your character.  The verb is an interesting mix of the noun and adjective.  The verb gives both character options at character creation as well as powers the character will give at each level.  For the characters stats, there are only three numbers that represent a bit of the character.  Character has a speed, might, and intelligence.  Speed represents the dexterity of the character.  Might represents raw physical power.  And, intelligence represents mental abilities.  Now we can put some of the level in perspective.  When a character decides to do something, he/she can tell the GM that they have an appropriate skill.  This lowers the difficulty of the check by one level.  The character may also be specialized in the same skill so the check can go down a second level.  After this, the character can spend points from their pools to further reduce the level of the check.  The system puts limits based on character level on how many points a character can spend for a single check to reduce the difficulty level.  In addition, character’s have a number of “free” points to spend that they get based on their level/class for each check or to activate powers.  When your character takes damage, you lose points from any pool you choice.  As each pool reaches zero, you take penalty levels to all your attempts, and eventually die.  To heal, the character rest and gain points back, but each rest takes longer until you must rest for the night.  All and all this system makes the game EXTREALY fast and user friendly.  Very few debates erupt over tiny rules.  And that right there makes this game phenomenal.  But what about randomness…

 

Experience-Experience in this game is an interesting thing.  Characters get cards for experience (exp).  The cards can be saved or spent as needed.  Characters can spend them to gain levels, skill, focused skills for less experience, or on rerolls.  Rerolls are the by far the cheapest for one exp.  In addition, the game allows other players to spend exp for your character leading to a very team based atmosphere.  Experience is given out rather leanly, but the GM can sweeten the pot by inciting trouble upon the players.  Whenever the GM wants to, he/she can ask a player or all players if X can happen.  This could be a problem in town, rain falling when they are tracking monsters in the hills, or anything else.  If the players are ok with this, they get extra exp card(s).  If not, the players must pay off the experience they would have gained.  These are called intrusion and they make the game very interesting as well as targeting what trouble to PCs get engaged with.  As in any RPG, the GM does have extreme control of the game/story, this part give a bit more to the GM while allowing the players a bit of reward/control of what is happening.  It reminds me a bit of the FATE system.

 

Ranges/Movement- As I get older, I’ve become less enamored with fiddling with the tiny minutia of games.  Don’t get me wrong if YOU started a campaign and asked me to track every arrow and copper piece weight, it might be fun, but lately I like the purity of just theater of the mind and hand waving away smaller details.  Numenera embraces this entirely.  There are three ranges for most things: immediate, short, and long.  Immediate is toe to toe.  Short is less than 15m, and long is up to 30m.  After that, each distance is specified.  You can move immediate distances for free, short on a turn, and long if you make a check.  DONE!

 

Items- This game takes place in the future where a lot has happened.  Thus the items of the world are basically magic.  Some bend reality, some warp time, and some turn funny colors.  Items take four very broad types: mundane, oddities, cyphers, and artifacts.  Mundane items are your basic objects like swords, armor, and spoons.  Oddities are interesting little techno bits.  This can range from a ball that says swear words in a Cthulhu’s language to a flat rectangle that shows a 3D picture of a place from long ago.  They are not game changing, but it’s the dust of eight worlds.  Cyphers are where we get into the real meat and potatoes of the far, flung future.  Cyphers are random objects with levels that provide amazing in game effects.  These range from a bomb that drops other bombs, a bracelet the projects your image and sound, to a box that records your thoughts for others.  Cyphers do NOT play nice together and having too many can be dangerous….  Cyphers also are one time use.  While the future is amazing, they don’t build them like they used to….  Artifacts are the real deal.  Artifacts are the magic items of this setting.  They are permanent objects with immense power that do impressive stuff.

 

Theme– I’ve spend a lot of time on the Cypher system above, but the theme is nothing to sneeze at.  A billion years is a long time, and it’s given Monte Cook and his writers a lot to play with.  Also, it allows ANYTHING to happen.  Since magic and technology are basically the same that far out (get ready for lots of people referencing the sufficient tech = magic quote), anything you can dream up is happening here.  This makes the world very fresh.  I like the standard sci-fi as much as anyone, but this one is every new.  Most modern sci-fi has a dark bend, this one doesn’t.  It’s got more of an exploratory tone, almost like a fantasy game.  Now don’t get me wrong.  Monsters still live in the hills and horrible things happen, but you are an explorer in this game.  You get to see (semi) new sights and experience a world that is literally only limited by your imagination.  I’m looking forward to some Lovecraft in this setting, but for right now, I love what I’ve seen. 5/5

 

Art- The art is this book is amazing.  It doesn’t have a consistent tone, and that’s good.  Since anything goes is the theme, the art is a consistent style (semi-realistic) but anything goes for what is drawn.  However you imagine your fighter looking, it’s something that goes in the theme and in the art.  For a critique of the art, I say it looks like is Apple made fantasy armor.  Things are sleek and well designed.  The horrible looks horrible, the heroic looks heroic, and the layout of it all looks great. 5/5

 

Execution- This book is well done from cover to cover.  There is lots of fluff to describe a part of the world for the GM to use in her/his games.  The chapters are not a pain to read.  The stuff you need up front is up front.  The rule of cool is written throughout this book (rule of cool is if it’s awesome your character can do it).  It displays a bit dark on my iPad, but overall I liked reading this book. 5/5

 

Summary– Numenera is a phenomenal product.  I have to say I am honestly impressed.  Monte Cook hit it out of the park.  I enjoyed running a game for my wife and brothers.  My brothers were amazed by the number of options they had.  I was impressed by how the game gave them these options by basically giving them so little to start with.  My wife loves the idea of the ninth world.  I love this game, but I am sad that there isn’t a living game.  I would love to be part of a living, continuing ninth world.  However, if I am ever somewhere, and a Numenera game is offered, I will happily hope in at a moment’s notice. Heck, it will take me that long to pound out a character and hope right in. 100%

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