Numenera – What Is It?

NBG

Numenera is a “next gen” tabletop RPG from esteemed RPG luminary Monte Cook. I say “next gen” because it’s a kind of post-Dungeons and Dragons style that does away with the list of stats and numbers and replaces game play with descriptions and role-playing. FATE is another example of what I’d consider in this category.

The concept behind Numenera is that the world is in it’s Ninth Age, taking place millions of years in our future. The world has been destroyed and recreated many times, with civilization sometimes barely getting out of their own Stone Age, and other times becoming so technically advanced that their creations qualify as “magic”. In the Ninth Age, those who inhabit Earth are constantly uncovering mysterious artifacts from past ages, and they call these items Numenera.

The interesting thing about this system is that it’s not genre-locked. Technically the setting deals with concepts of technology, techno-magic, and magic, but that doesn’t mean everything is either cyberpunk or high fantasy. It could be both, or something else entirely, and those concepts can exist side by side. It’s also very weird. Do an image search for “Numenera”, and see the kinds of things that pop up. Pretty much all of those concepts fit the setting, no matter how bizarre they might seem to us in the 21st century.

Since everything is meant to be mysterious, the game encourages GMs and players to really suspend disbelief by never meta-gaming anything, even to the point where the GM is encouraged to describe “a thing” as if she herself had never seen it before (try it! It’s not that easy!). For example, a laser gun which we might call a “blaster” or “phaser”, has no name in Numenera. It should be described as it’s seen: a handheld object that spits out light when you press a button, and sets distant objects on fire.

Because of the unusual nature of the system, it can be difficult to wrap a head around, but from a player perspective the game is relatively simple to work with. There’s very little dice rolling, what stats exist do so mainly to provide framework rather than to act as a real measurement of progression, and players are encouraged to really RP the hell out of the situation; sometimes, that’ll be all there is.

I started this category because I’m finally getting around to being a player in a Numenera play by post game. I had tried to set one up myself a while ago, but it kind of fell apart. This time, though, I’m happy to not be in the driver’s seat, since it’s been…almost 30 years since I’ve been a player in an RPG.

I’ll be posting odds and ends here that coincide with the game happening over at Tavern-Keeper.com. Some of the stuff I’ll post here so as not to “clog” the channels over there, unless I get the OK to post them somewhere there as well (for historical purposes).

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