Damn, I could not be more excited about Numenera. For those of you unaware, Numenera is the new roleplaying game by Monte Cook (a long time game designer that has worked on D&D, Call of Cthulu and others) being crowd-funded on Kickstarter.
From the initial announcement, through to the latest blog post, everything I have heard about it makes me more and more excited. It sounds like exactly the kind of game I’ve always wanted to run and play.
The mechanics are designed to be very simple and light and remind me of a cut down version of the FATE rules in many ways. I really like the FATE system which puts more mechanical emphasis on narrative and story-telling rather than D&D which is more mechanically focused on combat simulation. One of the coolest things about Numenera is the way it removes a lot of the work involved in performing actions in game. I recommend reading Monte’s blog posts on Numenera to learn more.
Apart from the mechanics, I find the setting intriguing and exciting as well. Set a billion years in Earth’s future, where civilisations have risen and fallen to be replaced with another, Numenera takes place in the Ninth World – the ninth civilisation in the pattern. Earth and even the solar system itself are littered with the remnants of great civilisations long since past.
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
Arthur C. Clarke
With all the detritus of advanced civilisations past, the Ninth World has it’s own magic users and monsters. Nano’s wield incredible power by tapping into the smart-dust nano-tech that permeates the very atmosphere. Incredible bio-engineered beasts and mechanical artificial life roam free or are harnessed for food and/or labour. The Ninth World is just beginning, a medieval sort of civilisation but built on the remnants of transhuman, post-singularity civilisations that have come before. The entire settings evokes a sense of mystic wonder and a sense of discovery, which the mechanics also hook into.
Combat in Numenera is not the primary driving force of experience and character progression – discovery and narrative control is. This, if nothing else, is one of the things I’m most excited about. Again this works similar to the FATE system of buying in narrative control and tagging aspects. Players can spend XP on adding aspects to a place to lower the target number on a task they are trying to perform, spend some on a simple dice re-roll or spend more to increase their stats permanently. GMs can offer XP to take narrative control (“while you are sneaking past the guards, that device you found starts talking in an alien language very loudly, if you accept this XP”) or the can give XP to players for making a discovery such a finding a new artefact or learning a fundamental truth or idea such as “what goes around comes around”.
Because combat takes second fiddle to narrative, character progression is fairly limited, but this is a good thing that stop characters and the GM getting into some kind of combat-effectiveness arms-race which seems to happen in D&D too often for my liking.
Of course, these problems I mention with D&D aren’t really D&D’s fault, the players and GM can play however they like, I just find the design of D&D encourages things down those lines and my programmer brain leans naturally towards optimisation for the rules, which tends to result in a bit of power-playing. Numenera offers a complete departure from that kind of game with it’s strong focus on narrative and roleplaying over combat simulation, so I’m hoping it will become a firm gaming favourite at my table and might work nicely as a bridge to getting my group to try out FATE at some point.
All in all, I’m really excited about the game and can’t wait to start playing it. I’ve signed up on Kickstarter for the Altruist Collector pack which gets a copy of the books fired off to a library as well as shipping all the goodies to me for free (shipping from the US is expensive). I also paid to upgrade my core rulebook to a fancy leather-bound edition which will be amazing. The best part though is that I get in on the playtester material so I can try out things before the products finally get released around June/July 2013.
If you’re interested in getting in on some of these deals, there is only 60 hours left or so of the kickstarter at time of writing so go signup now!