It’s Good to be Back

Finally after an extended hiatus, we’re back playing a roleplaying game again! We’ve returned to Numenera, but sadly due to a number of dropouts, we decided to start a fresh campaign with new characters. I’m in the driving seat again as GM and we kicked off the adventure with one of the PCs already captured in a slavers caravan heading to Rarmon in the Pytharon Empire. The other two PCs, trying to cross the Empire on their way to Nihliesh, ended up captured as well after a bit of a scuffle and negotiation.

The group this time around is made up of an ageing cyborg – a Wise Glaive who Fuses Flesh and Steel and a pair of mutants, one a man on fire with adhesive hands and a knack for resisting attacks on his mind – a Mutant Nano who Bears a Halo of Fire and a slow, lumbering woman with prehensile dreadlocks, telekinetic abilities and a robust digestion system, with a strangely absent past – a Mutant Nano who Isn’t. It’s particularly interesting for me this time around because I wrote the “Isn’t” focus, so it’s good to see it play-tested outside my own solo test scenarios. “Wise” also comes from theninthworld.com as does our Firey Nano’s “Very smart” mutation that grants him his armour versus psychic attacks and the female mutant’s “robust digestion”. It’s going to be fun to put some of the communities additions through their paces.

The session last night was really only meant to be a quick character generation session and maybe a quick dip into the game to establish a few things. Suddenly midnight arrived and the group had caused a mass-slave escape in the Slaver’s Markets of Rarmon. Riots and looting ensued. It was a great session and the Isn’t focus played out really well, the ‘Absent Esoteries’ effect adding a lot of fun to the actions going on throughout the groups bid for freedom. Really looking forward to the next game.

Since we dropped the old campaign, I let slip some of the behind-the-scenes things that were happening. They’d unshackled an AI they’d dealt with before, started the beginnings of a Magyr holy war and depending on their actions (though probably, considering) the King of Ghan was going to be assassinated and they’d likely be implicated, plus it was the first step on the Jagged Dream’s plan to instigate a huge war between the Beyond and the Steadfast. Fun times!

I’ve written some more Numenera content over at The Ninth World, two things of which I’m particularly proud of. The first one is The Flense, a creature encounter inspired by Neal Asher’s Hooders and some veritable nightmare fuel for players. The other one is a focus built around an existential crisis, ceasing the exist as if reality itself rejects your existence. I’m looking forward to using both in my campaign, speaking of which, you can keep up to date with what is happening in it over on it’s Obsidian Portal page, Voice of the Wind.

Articles

Hard Choices: Running Multiple Campaigns in Parallel

Cyphers

Instant Chef

Encounters

The Flense

Foci

Isn’t

Numenera: Characters

I’ve been GMing Numenera for a little while now, but I’ve yet to play in any games in real life. However, I’m currently active in several Play-by-Post games on RPoL.net and RPG Crossing and I thought it might be interesting to share them. I wont bother going fully into the stats/skills/etc and will just highlight the more unusual aspects and the background info as you can look everything else up in the books.

Sylys – a Learned Glaive who Commands Mental Powers

Background

Sylys has been trying to join the Order of truth for a long time. When he was young, a priest came to his village and showed them such wonders, not just through the magic of cyphers but through knowledge. She knew things, incredible, impossible things of the past and the future that left him in such awe it was almost impossible to go to sleep each night for all the ideas and wonder running instead his head. That’s why, late at night, he watched the priest dancing in the moonlight.

At least, he thought she was dancing, but soon he realised she was fighting, practicing a martial prowess he’d never seen before against an invisible assailant. He wanted to shout out, but he was too afraid. She fell at the hands of her attacker and he never forgave himself. She had been a plain, quiet woman, not exciting like the girls he had been becoming increasingly aware of, but her confidence, her joy in knowledge and her willingness to teach, it had changed something in him and now he was responsible for allowing that light to be extinguished.

For the early part of his life, Sylys was an angry young man consumed by guilt and vengeance. He trained hard, learning what he could about how best you use his fists and feet. He hunted for the invisible foe, but never found it, but his quest drove him to leave is village, abandon his friends and family and it eventually destroyed everything around him. His rage finally brought him under the wing of a group of psychic monks who trained not only their bodies, but also their minds to be weapons. What they could not see, they could sense in their minds.

What they taught him though, also allowed him to master himself and he learned to let go of his anger and forgave himself. He took to study, learning more about mental and martial arts and the world around him, deciding to make a new pledge. The world had lost a priest of the Order and was a worse place for it – he would take a pilgrimage, learn and grow and eventually earn a place among them so that he may take her place and fill the void she had left in the world. It wasn’t about atonement or revenge any more. It was about honouring her memory.

Thoughts

Due to his background, I took training in knowledge of detecting the invisible, knowledge of the Order of Truth and knowledge of the Numenera. I also specced him towards being an unarmed monk, with No Need for Weapons and Trained Without Armour. That said, he carried a greatsword and a bow, mostly for training though or large beasts where bare-fist fighting wouldn’t cut it. He also carried books, one on the Aeon priesthood and another on unexplored areas of the Ninth World.

This character didn’t last long because sadly the game died very quickly. However, a bunch of us from the game made friends and found ourselves together in a new game with new characters.

Carra Machirl – A Tough Nano who Employs Magnetism

Background

Carra is a very headstrong young girl barely out of childhood. Short and stout with a long black braid of hair, Carra is a tomboy who dreads the idea of a future arranged marriage, but is tough enough not to complain about it if it’s for the good of the tribe. That’s why she’s always the first to volunteer for any mission, because she’s brave and tough and she’ll take any chance to prove it to anyone, so it annoys the hell out of her when she’s always told to let the grownups handle it. Now her birthday has gone and she’s technically a woman, she’s having none of that.

Carra’s attitude can sometimes make her a bit of a social pariah among the other young adults and children of the tribe, but Carra doesn’t care. She’s made friends with some of the mutants in the village, much to the disapproval of her parents who like most normal folk think young girls shouldn’t be hanging around such… ‘people’ if they can help it.

That said, Carra has two parents that love her and a bunch of friends her age, mostly from among the other social outcasts in school, etc. Her mother and father are both in the village guard, making sure the things in the woods stay in the woods and it’s their continued position as protectors that provides no small motivation to Carra’s need to prove herself as tough, even if she isn’t much of a physical fighter.

Thoughts

Carra has rapidly become one of my favourite characters to play. She’s a headstrong sixteen-year-old, doesn’t always think things through and so far has caused a bit of trouble in the game, but in a fun way. She’s a proactive character which I’m finding I am enjoying a lot more than some of the passive characters I’ve played in the past.

Crave – A Clever Nano who Works the Back Alleys

Description

Crave is a pale, lithe man with lank, greasy dark hair that makes him perpetually look like he just escaped drowning. Apart from his slightly bedraggled appearance, he has a forgettable demeanor and blends into the background with his long, plain brown coat.

Background

Crave has known ever since an early age that real power doesn’t come from physical strength, reputation, breeding or money. Real power is information. It was this knowledge that set Crave on the path of the Nano, delving into forbidden knowledge hoarded and hidden in the dark and learning it’s secrets. He spent many years, spying and manipulating things so he could continue his studies. Of course, one day his foray into the more esoteric arts resulted in a terrible accident and the locals of his usual haunts in the Black Riage made life a nuisance for him, branding him as a dangerous liability. As such, he decided to seek out “Iyene Who Knows”, a knowledge broker in Norou who may be able to make use of his talents or at least provide him with more knowledge of his own to trade with.

Thoughts

I like the idea of Crave, but I’ve found playing him he hasn’t been quite as enjoyable as I had thought. Mostly it’s because we’re in a more action orientated scenario at the moment and he is mostly a social manipulator so has felt a little impotent so far. He might make an interesting NPC in the game I run in future.

Milo – A Strong Jack who Rides the Lightning

Background

Milo has been with running with a bad crowd since the beginning, mostly due to being raised by people of questionable morals as, more or less, an slave-come-thug. As a result, he is somewhat of a career criminal and is typically sent in when the more subtle approach fails to get results. Milo has a talent for breaking and hurting things, but in truth he doesn’t enjoy this life and he is smarter than he looks. In fact, he finds being used as a blunt instrument by his masters rather dull and uninteresting and further more, he doesn’t like hurting people, even if he is good at it. Luckily, his performance has earned him some slack on his proverbial leash and so he’s using it to get out and never come back. Sadly, owners rarely see things from a runaway slaves point of view.

Thoughts

I quite like Milo, I play him in an almost racist parody of a Eastern European stereotype. He reminds me a lot of Roman from GTA4 in his mannerisms and speech even though he looks like Mariusz Pudzianowski. He’s been fun to play, a bad guy through no fault of his own trying to be good.

Vesry Strenny – An Outcast Jack who Rolls the Dice

Background

Vesry used to be a popular vagabond. A known mischief maker, layabout and lovable scamp, he was well-known is his village with a certain affection as a gambler and entertainer of sorts. That all ended one fateful day when he got into a game with some particularly nasty individuals that did not take too kindly to him. After stripping him of everything he owned in a series of games of chance, they offered him one final game. If he won, he would get everything he lost back. If not, they would take his daughter into slavery as payment.

He lost.

When the village found out what he had done, they were horrified. His wife, bless her, had died during child birth but his family disowned him, they forever more had no son, no brother. He was outcast, driven out of the village with nothing but the few items he kept upon his person. For years, he drifted on the outskirts of civilisation, drinking himself into a stupor to drown out the combination of shame and self-pity, relying on the only skill he was ever good at, gambling, to feed himself. Eventually he found himself in a lot of trouble, his drunken escapades and the hateful glares of those who recognised him for the child-selling scum that he was driving him into riskier and more dangerous activities until the law finally caught up with him.

Thoughts

I’ve not yet actually played this character, and it’s the first one to use a third party descriptor and focus (both or which I happened to write). I have a good feeling about him though. generally I dislike playing the outcast, outsider because it makes being proactive harder and is oh so cliche. However, I think the circumstances of the game (we start in prison) and the heavily 50/50 chance-based focus makes for a fun combination. The gambling addict trying to atone for his sins by using the very skills that got him into this mess in the first place seems like a fun way to screw up!

Casey DeBraun – A [REDACTED]

Background

Whilst exploring some ancient ruins in South America, Casey found herself caught in an ancient trap inside a burial chamber. The trap released a noxious gas, choking her into unconsciousness. When she awoke, almost a month had passed yet somehow she hadn’t starved to death whilst laying, comatose in that tomb and now things seemed strangely different…

Thoughts

While not strictly Numenera, I happened to get into a playtest game of The Strange, also by Monte Cook Games, which uses the same Cypher system on which Numenera is built. So far it’s early days but I’m enjoying it. Casey is a sort of Indiana Jones type girl, trained in archaeology but more interested in shooting things and now working in a security firm for hire as a guard. I don’t want to say any more due to NDAs, but so far I’m feeling really positive about The Strange and I can’t wait for it’s full release.

Numenera Content Competition

Unofficial Numenera content site The Ninth World is currently running a content creation competition. I decided to throw my hat in the ring a number of times and wrote some locations, oddities, descriptors and other bits and pieces over the last couple of days. If you like them, I’d appreciate the upvotes so I can win some prizes! Chances are I’ll write some more before the competition ends, but I thought all of this was enough to warrant a post. Enjoy, and if you use any of these in your games, do let me know how it turns out!

Artifacts

Nerve Supplanter

Cyphers

Reality Augmenter

NPCs

Ben Orsay – Ghan Ex-pat and Merchant Captain
The Soil Man

Descriptors

Outcast
Spiteful
Blessed

Foci

Channels the Ancients
Rolls the Dice

Locations

The Nomad Louse
The Ringway
Armfell

Mutations

Cilia

Oddities

A bottle of 12 large, green pills
A chrome box with two large slots in it
A large, 3 fingered glove of black synth
A long hard strip of synth
A thin black cuboid with a silver disc embedded in it
An odd, semi-translucent pink cuboid of solid glass

Numenera Inspirations: Guyver

I’m a bit of an anime and manga fan. I’m no otaku by any stretch, but there are a few core series I really enjoy and one of those is the Guyver. When I first read the Numenera focus “Howls at the Moon” I expect I was supposed to jump straight to the idea of lycanthropy but reading about how the beast-within comes from an transdimensional source, the first place my mind went was Guyver.

As a Background for the Focus

Guyver

For those unfamiliar with the series, without too many spoilers the Guyver is the story of Shō Fukamachi and how he comes across a ‘Guyver Unit’, a powerful alien weapon, an organic symbiote that vastly enhances the battle-capabilities of it’s host. By accident, Shō becomes bonded with the unit and is plunged into a fight for his life and the lives of those he cares about from the shadowy organisation that wishes to reclaim the lost unit.

The Guyver grants it’s host a huge range of abilities, such as enhances senses, vastly increased strength and agility, rapid healing and regeneration, sonic vibro-blades and gravity weapons, flight, lasers and even massive energy beam weaponry that can punch holes through mountains. The Guyver is an extremely powerful entity, way more powerful than “Howls at the Moon” would suggest, but perhaps some inspiration can be taken from it.

Like the mass of the beast-form in the focus, the Guyver too comes from a transdimensional space. After being bonded with a host, the unit disappears and weird lesions or marks appear on the host’s back. When the host summons the symbiote, the armour appears out of a transdimensional space and envelops them, turning them into the Guyver.

You could treat the focus in a similar way, perhaps even as similar unit – a symbiotic weapon that has bonded to the player’s character that they do not know how to control (at least at first). It adds some more Numenera flavour to what is otherwise a fairly run-of-the-mill werewolf-type focus. Of course, there are other aspects of the Guyver series which are just as appropriate, such as the Zoanoids – humans engineered to be able to transform into bio-weapons, powerful mutants with abilities similar to the Guyver in many respects.

As an Artefact

Guyver_Unit

Another way to make use of the Guyver is to make it an artefact. The unit could be discovered and perhaps activated. Perhaps it is damaged and destroys itself after a time (it’s been billions of years after all) but as an artefact or even as a powerful cypher you can make use of and play with the full range of the Guyver’s abilities and maybe even tie it into the lore and stories that make up the Guyver series. If you choose to do this, you will almost certainly want to count it as at least a level 10 artefact/cypher due to how powerful the Guyver unit is, unless you try and tone down it’s abilities.

In fact, beyond just the Guyver units themselves, the series has many, many cool, weird and really interesting things in it to mine for Numenera game inspirations, from zoanoid mutants, to explanations for humanities evolution, to powerful alien beings and organic weaponry. If you’ve never come across the Guyver before, I highly recommend you check it out, you can find some info on wikipedia and more on guyver.wikia.com.

Final Thoughts

The Guyver is a really enjoyable, highly violent anime full of weird and wonderful stuff that fits perfectly into the world of Numenera. To be really able to appreciate it it though, you should read the mangas or watch the series. Don’t bother with the live action films, they are terrible, though they have a certain power-rangers-esque cheesy appeal if you enjoy that kind of thing.

You can buy the new anime series on amazon here: Guyver – The Bioboosted Armor Collection [DVD] [2005] [2009] or you can probably dig up episodes from the new series or the older OVA on YouTube. Finding the manga in English is harder (and the Japanese version extends far beyond what has currently been translated and published in English) but is well worth reading.

Numenera: Alternate Connections

There has been a reasonable amount of discussion in the Numenera fan community about the connections each focus has. Some has been positive and some negative regarding one focus or the other. Personally I like the fact that the Foci character connections aren’t clearly ‘balanced’ in terms of benefits and deficits granted to the player/group because realistically no group is perfectly balanced. I value them more for their narrative feel.

However, that’s neither here nor there, the main point of this post is to list a few alternate connections for each focus – after all each type has multiple backgrounds that have an impact on character progression, it seems a little limiting to have only one possibility for a connection per focus.

With that in mind, here are some I’ve thought of, one for each focus:

Bears a Halo of Fire

Pick another PC. You once burned them, their home or their belongings whilst you were still learning to control your abilities. You feel indebted to making up for your mistake, whether they feel inclined to forgive you is another matter.

Carries A Quiver

Pick a PC. They helped you during your bow training and now you are so accustomed to them, you can fire at them, deliberately missing by barely a few millimeters, even without aiming.

Commands Mental Powers

Pick a PC. Whenever you are in mental contact with them, they introduce a kind of mental static into your mental network, disrupting and distorting mental communications but strengthening your mental attacks.

Controls Beasts

Pick a PC. You know they are human but sometimes you feel a connection with them like you do with your animals. Sometimes, you even think your abilities may work on them if you dare to try it.

Controls Gravity

Pick a PC. This person helped you hone your abilities and you have become so used to them that you can use your abilities on them as well as yourself, as long as you are touching, at no extra cost.

Crafts Illusions

Pick a PC. You once used an illusion to fool them about an extremely important event in their past, such as the death (or survival) of a loved one. The illusion was so effective that your friendship was built upon that lie and you dread them ever finding out the truth.

Crafts Unique Objects

Pick another PC. You don’t know why, but whenever you make an object for them it just doesn’t seem to work right. It’s always slightly too big or too small, or has strange side-effects when used, making tasks using it take twice as long as normal.

Employs Magnetism

Pick a PC. Your magnetic powers affect the electromagnetic waves in their brain, allowing you to broadcast one-way messages to them like a mental radio. Such messages can not pass through metal or energy barriers.

Entertains

Pick a PC. They once toured with you, assisting in your performances. When performing together, your abilities are twice as effective, however as your partner is busy performing, they do not benefit from them.

Exists Partially Out of Phase

Pick a PC. You can’t touch them and they can’t touch you – for some reason you always phase through them.

Explores Dark Places

Pick a PC. You have worked together so often, you know each others footsteps, heartbeats, even breathing patterns. Even in pitch blackness, you can work out where each other are just by sound alone, or recognise each other’s handiwork and tracks.

Fights With Panache

Pick a PC. You hate fighting alongside them, quite frankly you find them an embarrassment compared to your own impressive and flamboyant fighting style. Being next to them in a battle makes you look bad by association. When within an immediate distance of them in battle, all attacks are 1 step more difficult.

Focus Mind Over Matter

Pick a PC. Normally your powers only work on inanimate objects but something about the molecular structure of this person allows them to be affected too.

Fuses Flesh and Steel

Pick another PC. You cannot harm them or through inaction allow them to come to harm.

Howls at the Moon

Pick another player. They smell delicious. When in normal form you find yourself looking at them, especially when hungry. When transformed, if they are within short-range you attack them in preference to other creatures unless you can make a roll to resist equal to a task of level 7 – your tier.

Hunts With Great Skill

Pick another player. You helped them hunt down the creature that killed one of their loved ones. You took a trophy from that creature that you wear on you and whilst the player feels gratitude for what you did, that trophy creates an awkwardness between you, but you are too stubborn and/or proud to relinquish it.

Leads

Pick another PC. You trust them as your second in command and have convinced your followers to follow their instructions in your absence.

Lives in the Wilderness

Pick another character. They found you injured whilst out in the wilderness, and brought you back to civilisation to get the medical help you needed. You feel conflicted by gratitude and resentment, as while you value your life, you’d have rather died natural than suffer the ministrations of civilisation.

Masters Defense

Pick a PC. You have trained them partially in your arts and when working together each gain an additional +1 on Speed defense rolls.

Masters Weaponry

Pick a character. This person was the one who set you on the path to mastery of your chosen weapon. Even though they may not have taught you, you feel like they are a mentor in some small way and respect their opinions and suggestions.

Murders

Pick another PC. You were hired to kill them, but something went wrong and you couldn’t go through with it. They are both a reminder of your shame for failing and a way of staying in touch with your humanity. Whether they know this or not is unknown to you.

Rages

Pick a PC. They infuriate you and light what little fuse you have on your short-temper. Interactions involving both of you become 1 step harder for you but raging in their presence grants you +1 to damage rolls, as long as you can hear their voice.

Rides the Lightning

Pick another PC. You have found that your powers work oddly with them, and rather than affecting them directly your electrical abilities travel through them as long as you are touching.

Talks to Machines

Pick one other PC. You are paranoid about them and every time you speak with a machine, you swear they tell you terrible secrets about that character, what they have done in the past and what they plan to do to you in the future.

Wears a Sheen of Ice

Pick another character. Something about them causes your ice-armour to go haywire. Sometimes when in immediate range your ice will fall off in their presence, in others it may grow ungainly spikes or even freeze solid so you can not move.

Wields Power With Precision

Pick another character. You are prodigy in esoteries and as such you can recognise the spark of potential in others. This person has an untapped gift – you may be eager to help them develop it or perhaps you are jealous and wish to suppress it so they don’t outshine you.

Wields Two Weapons at Once

Pick two other PCs. The weapons you most commonly dual wield are named after them. This may be a coincidence or on purpose, but either way sometimes the shared nomenclature leads to confusion.

Works Miracles

Pick another player. For them, your healing abilities work fine but cause damage to you equal to the amount healed. Something about them creates a harmful feedback in whatever provides your healing powers.

Works the Back Alleys

Pick one PC. They didn’t realise it was you, but you once broke into the home of a close friend or loved one of theirs and stole something. However, in the break-in you caused an accident, badly injuring or even killing them. Now, consumed by guilt, you secretly try to make up for the fact.