Numenera Musings


5 minutes


I’ve finally managed to actually play one of the many roleplaying games I’ve bought. In this case, that game is Numenera and by play, I mean GM.

If I was to sum up the game in a single sentence, it would be this: I’ve never had so much fun GM-ing a game in my life.

Of course, Numenera can’t accept all the praise for this. Much of what makes it fun is my gaming group, a completely new one I’ve started at work specifically for playing Numenera. It’s a large group, 7 people plus myself and counting, though some of the cast rotate in and out depending on whether they are on shift or not. We run the game in the Multiplay offices twice a week, from 1800-2200, more or less.

One of the great things I’ve seen come out of this is the introduction of a lot of people to roleplaying games. Only one player has previously played pen and paper roleplaying games before, the others have various experience ranging from nothing at all, to playing computer RPGs, to doing roleplaying via online games like Neverwinter Nights. It’s been good to see everyone get involved and it’s been my pleasure to introduce them to the hobby. I’m always a little skeptical about people actually enjoying roleplaying games, mostly because they carry a certain geek-stigma that some people find it hard to overcome but this hasn’t been the case at all for our game.

To ease everyone into the game, I’ve started off with a pre-made adventure from the Numenera Kickstarter - The Nightmare Switch. So far the players have had some fun dealing with bandits, an irritable boater, guardsmen and women, toxic plants, psychic grass, inciting civil unrest, preventing previous self-caused civil unrest and have otherwise, through a combination of luck, bumbling, impatience, stupidity and sheer genius managed to get about half-way through the adventure.

I’m planning to diverge a little from the built-in story here, but inn case any of my players read this, I’ll be keeping my mouth shut about that.

One of the things I’ve marveled over during running the game is how quick and simple it is to run. From my D&D days I remember nightmare sessions that were just one in a chain of sessions all to deal with one relatively inconsequential combat. Everything was harder, slower and distracting from the parts of the game I enjoyed the most, especially when I’m GM-ing, which is the story. In Numenera, having the players rolling the dice in all situations and just occasionally asking or prodding them about step reductions/effort, frees me up to focus on telling the story, and improvising on the fly without having to store a load of rules in my head or track anything. Of course, they’ve not really had any huge combats yet, so for the most part everything has been reasonably easy for them and no-one has been threatened much, especially given a group their size. I’ll likely be changing that shortly, mwahahahahaha.

The other thing I’ve been impressed with is how quickly characters have been generated, even without the help of the basic 1st tier character generator I wrote. Some of the players new to roleplaying are struggling coming up with background, pasts, motivations for their characters. Those same players are also a bit quiet and passive in the game so far, which is partly down to being unsure about what they want to/can do, I guess. I’ll have to focus some more time on them to give them a more active role and bring them more center stage. The players are starting to become a bit more comfortable with the system. At first, they were extremely conservative about spending XP, effort or using cyphers, but as the game has moved on and I’ve piled a bunch of new cyphers on them and given them some more difficult rolls to make, they’ve started to buy in a bit more, especially now they’ve spent a few nights in the town and realised that a full nights rest is basically all four stages of the recovery rolls (at least how I rule it, assuming a reasonable 8-12 hours sleep, I’ve also been quite generous in letting them get the rest, even with the nightmares, mostly because I want to give them full pools to encourage more spending of them at this early stage).

The most surprising thing about the game though is how even with 7 players, I’m not struggling to run it. Whether that’s the system, the players or what I’m not sure but generally I’ve never liked running for a group of players much larger than 4, but I’ve really enjoyed running Numenera for a group almost twice that size and haven’t had a whiff of burnout yet, even at a rate of 2 games a week.

I’ve setup the game on Obsidian Portal so that we can record what happens and share it with anyone else who may be interested. If you’re interested in following along and don’t mind spoilers for The Nightmare Switch, which forms the first leg of the campaign, then please do checkout Voice of the Wind, for which the reason behind the name will become apparent soon enough.

In other news, the Numenera Fiction Anthology project I’m trying to make happen is going slowly. I’ve not had a great deal of time to write my other story for it, which is hopefully going to change soon. I’m also planning for another set of stories not Numenera-specific in the future once this project is over, but that’s just a dream with no real plan at the moment. My work on my actual Numenera Adventure/Setting supplement has been pretty much stand-still recently too, due to being busy and juggling too many projects at once. However, the ideas I have for it will very much be finding their way into the campaign I’m running so I’m hoping I can mine that for the supplement. *[D&D]: Dungeons and Dragons *[GM]: Game Master

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