How about a multi-part review of the recent Numenera source book releases? Ok, let’s go!
Product: In Strange Aeons: Lovecraftian Numenera
Producer: Monte Cook Games
TL;DR– If you love Numenera and Cthulhu, then it’s a no brainer! 90%
Basics: Time to mix Cthulhu and Numenera like chocolate and peanut butter. This book gives the GM’s ideas, mechanics, and monsters for Numenera. The book starts with a discussion of what Lovecraftian horror is then moves to mixing that in with Numenera. From there, the book dives right in to rules for the cosmic horror in the game system. To round out the short 13 pages, the book gives some new descriptors for the PCs and monsters as well as some classic Lovecraftian horrors for your game.
Theme: Knocked it right out of the park! The book uses its short run to really hammer home the ideas of cosmic horror and explain the basics of to the uninitiated. And this book comes with a short suggested reading list. That is necessary! What’s there is a great way to get someone into the mythos quickly and efficiently. And the whole idea of Numenera really does work well with Lovecraft unlike some other games. 5/5
Mechanics: Again, this section is amazing. The use of the cypher system works well here to illustrate how different types of damage hurt the player in different ways. The added rules are not the bulky and really do bring home the Lovecraft with sanity damage. The book doesn’t add a whole lot of extra in terms of player content, but what it does have is really focused Lovecraft content. The monsters that area added are also well done. One thing that really hurt the book though is the absence of a particular giant, tentacled horror that really should have been in this product! 4.5/5
Art: The book has new art that is atmospheric. I love what I see, but I think there should have been a bit more or varied the pictures more. I don’t particularly like the blurry style that some of the smaller picture. Nothing is bad here, but a lot of the art is repeated in a small book. However, this book has one of the best pictures of a shoggoth you will ever see. 4/5
Execution: The book is well put together. The text reads well, and the flow leads your eye. I like the side comments in the margins. Those little tidbits really make the book come alive. It feels like a Lovecraft and Numenera book. The price isn’t horrible. I don’t like the $3 price for 13 pages, but it’s comparable to other PDF only books by other publisher. 4.5/5
Summary: This is a great book to introduce a Numenera group to Lovecraft. The book is short, but does pack a punch. Anytime you add a new aspect to a game, I love a reading list and this one has one. This book isn’t perfect, but it is amazing. If you want to add some Lovecraft flare to your game, this is your book and you need to buy it now. If you don’t want to add that, then this isn’t the book for you. 90%
Product: Cypher Collection 1
Producer: Monte Cook Games
TL;DR– Want some more cyphers? Here you go! 95%
Basics: Need some more one time use, random items from all across the previous eight worlds? This book is cholk full of them!
Theme: For a book of items, I didn’t expect many. However, I was wrong. Monte Cook Games likes to put random little side things in the margins. That is amazing as it adds depth to each of the items they talk about. The items do get some nice descriptions even if they don’t get text in the margins. 5/5
Mechanics: This book should almost solely be dedicated to mechanics since it’s an item book. However, that would merely make the book passable. This book goes a step ahead and gives you a random item generator early in the book. That right there is why the book gets a 5. 5/5
Art: This book kind of suffers from the same art problem as all the other Numenera books. The art isn’t bad, but it’s reused a lot for a short book. Also some of the art is this book looks a bit out of place as some looks almost like clip art. Nothing bad and it does give some world building via pictures, but it’s not my favorite. 4/5
Execution: In terms of text and layout, this is another well done book. It reads quick. It’s entertaining, and it doesn’t hurt my head to look over it. The 1st page is the random item generator because that the page I’m going to use the most from this book. And that right there shows that this was made by gamers for gamers. Heck, for 50 items for $3, I won’t even complain about the price! 5/5
Summary: If you like Numenera, then you need this book. Now, everybody won’t need a copy, but if the GM has a copy, then the table will benefit. This is a simple, well done book with lots of new random items, and you need a copy for your Numenera game. 95%
Product: Artifacts and Oddities Collection 1
Producer: Monte Cook Games
TL;DR– Want some more random items for Numenera? Here you go? 100%
Basics: Need a bunch more powerful, random items and random, strange items for your Numenera game? Here you go? This book give you 50 artifacts, powerful items that may not deplete after use, and 50 oddities, not powerful items that may give much smaller effects like on the scale of a flashlight.
Theme: Again, there is a suppressing amount of story in this item book. Much like all other Numenera books, the authors add side notes in the margin that add to the Numenera world. Also, the items have great descriptions to help you visualize the objects in question. 5/5
Mechanics: This is basically a mechanics book since it’s dedicated to items. What’s more, this book has TWICE as many items as the last one with both artifacts and oddities. The items are all fresh and interesting, so its value for money in my opinion. And RANDOM TABLES! FOR BOTH ARIFACTS AND ODDITIES! That is amazing! Why is that not in more item books?! 5/5
Art: I’ve only started writing these reviews, but in this book the authors look like the listened to my comments. This book has fewer reuses of pictures and less random pictures. There is a semi-random welding mask, but I like the art here. Much better! 5/5
Execution: This book follows the Cypher collection 1 book and follows a similar layout and text arrangement. I loved it there, and I love it here. And for $3, you get 100 things. That’s a good value. 5/5
Summary: Again, a simple, well done item book that add to the world of Numenera. You will only need one at the table, but it’s something that any Numenera table needs one of at their table. 100%
How about a Monster Manual?
Product: The Ninth World Bestiary
Producer: Monte Cook Games
Price: ~$14 (PDF)
System: Cypher System
TL;DR– How about a bunch more Monster for your Numenera game? 100%
Basics: The Numenera book comes with a selection of monster to throw at the PCs. However, it’s not a lot. This book adds lots of different monsters to the world describing the motivations, environment, and even life cycle of the various denizens of the ninth world. After the monsters, the book goes into specific people that the PCs could encounter in their travels.
Theme: The ninth world is not a simple place. Goblins don’t just eat people because that’s what goblins do in this game. In this game, everything has a motivation. Some things might be things from millennia ago who are robots executing instructions that should have stopped eons ago. In this book, each enemy gets a write up like that. The attacks have themes rather than just damage. The horrors of the ninth world get vivid descriptions and little bits of text from survivors help build the world more. When all’s said and done, I found myself sitting and reading this book not being able to put it down just based on stories along! 5/5
Mechanics: The Cypher system is pretty simple, so the mechanics could have been just a level. However, the creatures of this world get full page descriptions describing different aspects of the numbers behind the creatures. That’s great. What propels this book into amazing is the random tables. The random tables give different encounters in different environments. While I know random encounter are not everybody’s favorite, when I want to throw something at my PC, having a table that I could just roll on quick really helps me move the game along! 5/5
Art: Most books that add monsters to a system fail to add pictures to most of the monster. I want something I can show my friends and get them to be scared right away. In this book each monster gets about a page spread and almost all get a picture. Right there is awesome. Even better, most monsters have a small picture showing a size comparison to an adult man. Those bits of art makes my job as a GM that much easier and build the world that much faster. 5/5
Execution: I love the Numenera book style. It’s sleek, reads quickly, and isn’t cluttered. The background isn’t hard to see the text through, and I have enough white space to not feel like it’s the ravings of a madman in a notebook. Heck, the price isn’t even that bad for the PDF. 5/5
Summary: This book should come free with the purchase of the Thunderstone Advanced: Numenera game. Almost all the monsters in that game come from this and NOW I know what horrors I was playing against in the card game. For the RPG, make sure the GM picks this book up. Players don’t really need a copy of this one, but it will really help any Numenera group if the GM gets this. 100%
And the most controversial item produced by Monte Cook Games thus far….
Product: Sex and Love in the Ninth World
Producer: Monte Cook Games
TL;DR– An adult discussion of sex and love in the Numenera Game. 87.5%
Basics: This is the most controversial book released for Numenera. This book covers the hows and why of adding sex and love as factors in your Numenera game. While the book covers an adult subject, the book does not go into any graphic detail, making it relatively non-offensive. However it does mention some things that may offend some readers. Much like “In Strange Aeons: Lovecraftian Numenera” the book starts with how to introduce sex as a concept into Numenera games. This is accompanies by a large discussion of all the ways this may affect your game, both positively and negatively. Next the book describes different mechanics aspects of sex and love in Numenera covering grounds from amounts different gifts cost to different STD effects. The book finishes with different artifacts, cyphers, and oddities that may appear in your Numenera game if sex is an element of your campaign.
Theme: This book is an interesting one. Overall I think it was well done describing how sex and love can affect the world of Numenera. I have to save I disagree with the author as she maintains that most sexism will not be present in one billion years, but that view may be my low faith in humanity speaking. 5/5
Mechanics: Unlike ” In Strange Aeons: Lovecraftian Numenera” this book doesn’t has as much mechanics for the players. This is well done with the addition of several artifacts, oddities, and cypthers, but I felt there was not as much here as a lot of the book was warnings to GMs to seriously consider if sex is appropriate for your campaign. I felt that took away a little from the book. 4.5/5
Art: This book suffers from some of the original Numenera book problems as much of the same art is repeated through the short book The art is good, but in a 13 page book one pages is art and that picture is repeated on two other pages as a small pictures. 4/5
Execution: This is a well laid out book. Like all the other Numenera books I’ve reviewed, it’s laid out in the same, well thought out style and is an easy read. However, the price is a bit high for a source book that mostly discusses problems in execution of the source material. Also, I felt that section of the book was a bit long and that impacted some of the available material. Nothing is horrible, but I felt that the book was a bit over-concerned with warning the GM. 4/5
Summary: This is a good book. It has its flaws, but mostly this book will help you add a new dimension to your Numenera game. The book is very conservative giving the subject matter compared to other books on the topic (looking right at you Book of Erotic Fantasy 3e!, then sheepishly looking away quickly) in both pictures and discussion. This is a one copy at the table book as only the GM will need this for both its advice and mechanics. If you want to add this to your Numenera game, then I think this is worth a read. 87.5%