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jameson (ST)

[Review] Numenera

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jameson (ST)    61

231x300xNumenera-Corebook-Cover-2013-06-

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Numenéra

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Vitals: Published By Monte Cook Games • 416 pages • on sale August 14th • full color PDF or Hardcover

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Introduction:

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Let me start out by making a few things clear:

  • I backed the Kickstarter campaign, which is how I have an early copy of the rules.
  • This review will come in parts, mostly cause this book is huge, and my time is finite.
  • I have yet to play the game, so opinions on the mechanical aspects are thusly informed.
  • I'm reviewing a PDF so I cannot speak to the physical quality of the book until such time as mine arrives.

That said this thread will grow as I add to it with additional chapters of the book as I go, I am hoping to have the entire book reviewed by the end of the month.

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First Impressions - The Look & "Feel"

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Wave_1_Half_RiderPortrait_Rough.jpeg

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This book looks amazing, plain and simple. The artwork is a mix of full color paintings and pencil or line art. The art ranges in size from tiny sketches in the margins to half page paintings. Quality of the artwork is generally very high and helps to establish the look and feel of the setting throughout. The remainder of the layout is full color as well, with color page borders, section transitions, and even portions of text use color as a highlight.

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Text is a mix of one and two column format with a generous margin on the outside of each page. These margins are populated with copious small artworks, definitions of key terms, and hyper-linked cross references of important terms and sections. Many people seem to prefer reading a physical book to a digital one, but the quality of the hyper-linking and cross-referencing makes this book read almost like it were a Wiki page (this is a good thing).

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The only downside to the digital format is that there is no file Table of Contents (ToC). This is not to be confused with the book's Table of Contents (there is one), but digital ToC that is accessible from a toolbar would make some degree of navigation between chapters without the use of the hypertext more useful. As it stands currently flipping back to the book's ToC page and hyper-linking from there is functional, if less than perfect. Lastly the file is huge topping out just over 70 MB, which means that Adobe can occasionally be a bit chunky when navigating.

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New World, New Game and Part 1: Getting Started - Or, How I Learned About the Year 1 Billion

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The Ninth World is about discovering the wonders of the worlds that came before it, not for their own sake, but as the means to improve the present and build a future. - Numenera, page 12
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The book starts out with a short introduction by Monte Cooke about the origins of Numenera and his goals in creating this setting and game. Immediately following this is a story The Amber Monolith that tosses the reader head first into the the Ninth World and immerses them in a story that showcases the world through the eyes of a character who could easily be a player.

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The first two chapters provide high level introductory overviews of the setting and the rules. The setting, The Ninth World, is set one billion years in the future, and is built on the rubble and remains of the prior either worlds. The game is a mixture of science fiction and fantasy, with medieval level cultures using the remnants of the prior ages' technology as typical fantasy-world denizens would use magic. As the book reminds early on, Clarke's Third Law applies: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

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Mechanically the game uses an entirely new system that operates on a d20 dice mechanic and a ten rank difficulty system. To facilitate a mechanically light system that focuses on storytelling over combat the system is light on skills, stats, and even dice rolling - the GM never need toss a die during normal play, all rolls are made by the players. I'll get deeper into the mechanics later, but the light rules seem like they will do well to facilitate a more story driven play style similar in some ways to FATE, or the various Apocalypse World variants.

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Next up, Characters and Chargen

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Feel free to comment or ask questions, I'll try and reply as I am able.

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SalmonMax    34

Agreed! The aesthetic looks awesome. I'm much more interested in the rules, but it's a good first impression!

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Forge    8

Thanks for doing this! I was flat broke when the KS was going and so bad wanted to get a book. I'm mostly interested in the lore vs the mechanics. Any you can delve into that would be appreciated at least by me.

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Krystal    0

I'll grant Monte Cook makes gorgeous books - I bought the hundred dollar, massive Ptolus book, way back when before the days of Kickstarter. I haven't gotten addicted to Kickstarter like a friend of mine, so I hadn't heard of Numenera until now, I've but I've always liked the mix of Sci-Fi and Fantasy, like Phantasy Star, Final Fantasy (in some versions), and others, so look forward to hearing more about the setting.

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Rules wise, a rules-light, Storyteller driven game seems like it would work easier for a Play-by-Post style game, if one doesn't have a local gaming group handy, especially one where the players roll more then the Storyteller does.

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jameson (ST)    61

Part 2: Characters - or, "I am a blank blank who blanks."

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Covering Chapters three through seven, Part 2 of the book is all things character. At its core character creation in Numenera comes down to filling in the blanks in the above phrase. It reads a bit like Numenera Mad Libs- “I am a [adjective] [noun] who [verb or verb phrase].”- but it serves its purpose well to set your character up via a simple to complete descriptive sentence. It also means you can tell other players who you are in fewer words than the Bible, which is an achievement some games cannot claim. While this is pretty open and does allow for a hefty number of character options, it is not quite as open ended as a character's High Concept and Aspects in a FATE based game.

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Character Stats

Numenera uses three character stats: Might, Speed, and Intellect. Stats in Numenera are not approached the same way that they are in other games, the value of your stat is not a fixed value for reference purposes or determining base bonuses, but instead provides the value of that stat's Pool. Your Pool for each stat is a combination of energy points and hit points, being spent as a resource and lost via damage; you might spend an Intellect Point to use an ability and conjure fire, or lose Intellect Points by taking damage from a psychic assault. This provides a dynamic play experience as the players balance their need to spend point against point loss from external attacks and stresses.

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In addition you will have an Edge Rating for each stat. Your Edge for a given stat is subtracted from any spends (but not losses) against that Pool, once per turn. You'll start with an Edge of either 0 or 1 for each Stat, but you can buy additional Edge with experience. Characters who focus on building a large Edge rating for a given stat will be able to use abilities and effort related to that Pool much more freely, while those who take Edge more evenly will be better suited to a flexible play style.

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Beyond that you also have some number of Skills and an Effort Rating. Effort is a rating that indicates how many levels of Effort you can apply in a given turn. Effort is used to buy down the difficulty of tasks, increase the damage of attacks, and other things. You start with an Effort of one and can buy more ranks with experience. Having an Effort of three would let you buy down the difficulty of a strike by two ranks, and add an rank of Effort to Damage which is a pretty big deal.

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Skills are very simple, with two rankings: Trained, and Specialized. If you are Trained you reduce all difficulties against that skill by one level, if you are Specialized you reduce them by two levels. The skills themselves are somewhat loosely defined and the breadth of a skill is slightly variable dependant on its depth and utility. I need to see them in play but skills might be the part of the system least balanced, but also least broken by that imbalance.

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Making Your Character

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Character Type

The first place to start when making a character is picking one of the three character types. These are a bit like the playbooks of Dungeon World for those familiar combining a set of starting abilities, a handful of options to choose from and some suggestions backgrounds. The character type you choose will establish the starting values of your three stats as well, though you have additional points to customize those stats fully. The three character Types are the Glaive, the Jack, and the Nano.

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Glaive

The Glaives of the Ninth world are its warriors par excellence. These are the men and women who have trained or upgraded to be best able to tackle the creatures and threats of the world around them. Glaives are the most likely to be at the head of a column of adventurers being most ready to meet the physical threats of the Ninth World. Glaives are armed with a selection of Fighting Moves that allow them to be better in combat than their fellows. While the heart and soul of Numenera play may be exploration that does not mean that a Glaive will not find use in a party, for discovery and exploration are often dangerous and many remnants of the prior worlds are hostile, whether by design, or as a side effect of age, neglect, or simple alien intent.

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Jack

Jacks are the most flexible of the three classes. They are the rogues, the jacks of all trades (hence the name), and the dabblers. Jacks get the most flexible use of skills (indeed, they also have the most skills periods), and the most flexible special abilities with a selection of those used by both Glaives and Nanos as well as their own unique abilities. The Jacks probably have the widest slot to fill and the most room for high variability. Where Glaives are good at smashing stuff and providing muscle, and Nanos can deal with all the broken and abandoned tech from ages past, Jacks are given the freedom to do most everything else, while still being able to put their feet into the realms of combat and Numenera to boot.

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Nano

Nanos are the mystics (after a fashion) of the Ninth World. It is the Nanos who best understand the numenera (old technology) left behind by the prior worlds. Nanos are skilled not only in the identification and use of those artifacts and cyphers (types of numenera) but are also trained or upgraded to use esoteries, abilities and powers that tap into the numenera of the world. From making use of the pervading nanites that infest the environment to accessing the world’s data cloud Nanos are perhaps the most narrow of the three classes, and paradoxically the most important to a group of explorers. Without a Nano in your party finding and learning to use cyphers, artifacts, and other bits of old technology will be much more difficult.

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Character Descriptor

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The first blank in your character phrase is a descriptor, an adjective or adjective phrase that defines who your character is as much as his or her type. Descriptors are things like Rugged, Charming, Stealthy, Mystical, or similar. There are ten descriptors built into the core book, but it would not be terribly difficult for a player to work with a GM on a new descriptor if one did not fit the need. Descriptors usually give a bonus to one Pool, a Trained rating in one (or more) skill, an Inability - some kind of character flaw, and a link to your starting adventure usually one that involves another player character. Some Descriptors may give additional money or equipment, or a special ability. While all characters of the same type will have points in common their descriptors will serve to truly differentiate them from each other.

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Character Focus

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If your Type tells people what you are, and your Descriptors tells them who you are, then your Focus tells them what sets you apart from the norm and what you can do. Character Foci are an additional area of training or an additional path of abilities that your character gains. These will sometimes dovetail with your Type and other times will stand as a separate area of expertise. A Glaive who “Masters Weaponry” for instance, is going to deepen their already considerable combat skills while a Glaive who “Controls Gravity” is going to have a second set of abilities to fall back on, and will play drastically different from the other Glaive.

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Some Foci, like “Ride the Lightning” will provide abilities that use Pool to fuel them, while others like “Explores Dark Places” will be largely passive and skill based, or provide abilities which are enablers. Finally some Foci will actually alter the way your Type-based abilities work. A Nano with the Onslaught esoterie who “Bears a Halo of Fire” will have that Onslaught be flame based, while a Nano with the same power who “Wears a Sheen of Ice” will have an ice-based Onslaught. These are special effect changes only; Onslaught will work the same for both of those Nanos as they would for any other, but the visual effect and effect type are different - a fire blast becomes an ice blast, becomes a force blast.

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There are some thirty Foci in the book and while a player and GM could craft more these are more fiddly, and more complex and I have little doubt we will see more of these in upcoming Numenera products.

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Advancement and Character Tier

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Numenera uses a system of experience points and buys that reminds me most closely of the d6 System. Experience is awarded during the game and can either be spent during play to re-roll bad rolls one-for-one, or saved and spent to upgrade characters permanently. Character start at Tier 1 with any Tier 1 abilities from their Focus, and their choice of Tier 1 abilities from their Type (you get to choose two from the list).

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There are four things you can spend experience on, buying more Effort ranks, buying more, Pool points (which can be distributed as you see fit), buying additional Edge ranks, and buying Training in a Skill, or, instead of training in a Skill getting a new ability from your Type or a couple of other small options. The key to advancement in Numenera is that you can only upgrade each of these once per Tier and to move to the next Tier you need to buy each of these once. That means that to go from Tier 1 to Tier 2 you will buy 1 rank of Edge for one stat, on rank of Effort, one Pool upgrade, and either training in one Skill, or an ability. Once you have done that you will move to Tier 2 and start the buying cycle over. Once you reach the next Tier you will also automatically gain its benefits for your Type and Focus.

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Experience is fairly slow to come in and while upgrades are cheap, your experience is also you “bennies” for helping overcome the cruel rolling of dice during play so advancement is not going to be quick. On the other hand characters are fairly capable out of the gate and unlike the zero to hero play of other games the progression from Tier to Tier is not intended to be the primary goal of a given session.

All told you can probably make a character in little more than fifteen minutes and be ready to play as a group in only slightly more than that. The system seems well designed to allow a lot of options without getting players bogged down in points, or in the complexities of finding a half dozen or more descriptive phrases. It straddles the line nicely between those two, at least on paper.

Next up, crunchy rules bits

Feel free to ask questions and discuss, I'll try and reply as I am able.

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z017    0

This is Malachite, I'm just being lazy on switching accounts. This CC sounds neat and like an interesting balance between FATE and D&D 4th Ed or WW.

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SalmonMax    34

Interesting...hard to process without seeing it, but the description and explanation help a lot.

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I am curious about the relationship of the PC creation system to NPC's. Do you generate NPC's the same way? Or are there types and so on that would normally not be adventuring, but may still be encountered by PCs? Or do NPCs use completely unrelated rules for their generation a la 4th Ed D&D?

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Gabe OOC    3

Having played Dungeon World, I have to agree with your assessment of character creation similarities. And this is in a good way. I am intrigued. I guess the big question is how the Stat pools come together with dice rolling (modified by Effort and Skills of course). I imagine we have things playing out much like the Dungeon World moves - where a lot of NPC stuff, like enemies and combat attacks are the product of failure or a certain roll number rather than the GM's direct action?

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jameson (ST)    61

Interesting...hard to process without seeing it, but the description and explanation help a lot.

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I am curious about the relationship of the PC creation system to NPC's. Do you generate NPC's the same way? Or are there types and so on that would normally not be adventuring, but may still be encountered by PCs? Or do NPCs use completely unrelated rules for their generation a la 4th Ed D&D?

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TBH I haven't gotten that far into the book yet. This thing is pretty dense and what I have reviewed thus far is only the first 77 pages of 416. The rules are split between two parts, playing and running, so ... well, we'll see I guess :)

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Having played Dungeon World, I have to agree with your assessment of character creation similarities. And this is in a good way. I am intrigued. I guess the big question is how the Stat pools come together with dice rolling (modified by Effort and Skills of course). I imagine we have things playing out much like the Dungeon World moves - where a lot of NPC stuff, like enemies and combat attacks are the product of failure or a certain roll number rather than the GM's direct action?

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I'll give you a peek ... the GM never rolls dice, BUT it's not like DW's compound actions either.

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jameson (ST)    61

I'm not trying to keep secrets, I'm just not willing to talk about what I don't fully understand yet or haven't fully read yet. This is an entirely new game system and setting so it's quite difficult to read and review quickly. Had I decided to fully read the book before reviewing it we'd be having this discussion in September, and (ironically perhaps) the review would actually be shorter and have less depth for it but I'd be better prepared to discuss it in depth as well. A Catch-22 in a way I suppose.

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Gabe OOC    3

I'm not trying to keep secrets, I'm just not willing to talk about what I don't fully understand yet or haven't fully read yet. This is an entirely new game system and setting so it's quite difficult to read and review quickly. Had I decided to fully read the book before reviewing it we'd be having this discussion in September, and (ironically perhaps) the review would actually be shorter and have less depth for it but I'd be better prepared to discuss it in depth as well. A Catch-22 in a way I suppose.

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What I meant, is that the essence of the rules are available for people to read there, but by all means keep going through it. Either way, we can have a good long discussion at the end. :)

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jameson (ST)    61

I get that. I was just trying to explain my comments and the structure an rate of posting for this review. Anyway since my hangout this evening got cancelled I have been able to make some progress on the next part of the book. Hopefully I can finish tomorrow or Sat and get the next part up early next week.

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jameson (ST)    61

Part 3: Playing the Game - Or, How I Met Your Mechanics

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Part three is split into two chapters, one covering the core rules, and the second covering various optional rules. These chapters weigh in at around thirty pages total, roughly half that of part two.

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The Core Mechanics

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Resolving Actions

At their simplest all actions can be resolved with the following steps:

  1. Player tells the GM what they want to do.

  2. GM Determines the difficulty of the task and which stat applies.

  3. Player determines what Skills, Abilities, and Assets they have, and if they want to spend Pool to use Effort to lower the initial difficulty.

  4. Player rolls against the target number set by the final, modified, difficulty.

  5. Determine success or failure.

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Difficulty Level

All tasks in the game get assigned a difficulty level by the GM ranging from zero, which is automatic with no roll needed, and ten. Difficulty is set based on the task, regardless of the player’s Tier, Skill, Assets and the like.

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As discussed in the Character section being trained in a task will allow you to decrease the difficulty one level, and being specialized will decrease it two levels. Each level of Effort applied will also reduce the difficulty by one level, and likewise Assets (more on those in a bit) can reduce the difficulty of a task. If a task can be reduced in difficulty down to zero then no roll is needed and success is automatic unless the GM decides to intervene (more on that later too).

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Assets

Assets are anything a character has or does that makes the task easier. From a set of good lock picks, a running start prior to a jump, or climbing gear. Assets may also include items of numenera like an anti-grav belt, or a vial of nanotech that can mend materials. Numenera items or a clever plan may also remove any need for a roll; if you have a flight harness you won’t need to make a climbing roll at all after all.

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Effort

As discussed previously each character has an Effort rating that determines how much Effort the can spend on a task. A character with an Effort of three could spend points from the appropriate Pool on up to three levels of Effort to reduce the difficulty by the same number of levels. Effort costs three points for the first level and two points thereafter, modified by the character’s Edge rating (if any) for the given stat.

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Target Number & Rolling

Once you have applied any level reductions you can the target number is determined by the final difficulty. Target number is determined by three times the difficulty. The player then rolls a d20 and tries to meet or beat the target number. Doing so is a success, rolling below the target number is failure. If a “1” comes up the GM make make an Intrusion (later) without giving experience. Likewise if a “17”, “18”, “19”, or “20” comes up and you succeed you will gain an additional benefit.

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GM Intrusion

The GM may intrude and modify circumstances, or make an automatic action require a roll during the game. Normally doing so requires that the GM give experience to the player affected, but when a roll was made that came up a “1” they may do so for free. Intrusion could be turning a routine climb up a rock wall into a difficult climb as the rock face prove unstable and crumbling. It can mean that a city guard is unusually resistant to bribery. Or anything else the GM see fit to add to the story to make things more interesting. When a “1” is rolled the GM may have a characters weapon slip out of their grasp or run out of ammo, or the character may slip and fall, or injure themselves. The result should be determined by the action and what would improve the story.

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Experience

In addition to experience awards from GM intrusion character earn experience based on discovery during the game. Kill or avoid all the beasts and raiders you want, they award you no experience intrinsically. Instead the spirit of Numenera is discovery and your rewards are awarded appropriately. Finding an artifact that allows you to fly will gain you some experience, as would reactivating a maglev monorail that allows you to travel into a new region.

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Once you have some experience you will want to spend it. Experience can be spent one for one to re-roll dice. You can re-roll a die as often as you like though unless the risk of failure is great this may not be worthwhile. You can also spend experience to increase your character’s abilities as discussed previously, buying advancements toward the next character Tier.

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Optional Rules

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Optional rules including trading damage for minor effects like knockback, stun, and disarms. Rules for long term and permanent damage are also provided, though they might be best suited for occasional use to punctuate an encounter that went poorly. There are also rules for using miniatures with the game and modifying things to be more tactical.

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Lastly there are several character options, from minor character creation and advancement changes to including mutants and alien races. The Visitants (aliens) and mutants provide an additional layer of diversity to character creation replacing your character’s descriptor with his race (mutant being a “race” for these purposes). Story complications are also provided for allowing characters to start with more experience at the cost of a complicated back story and complications during play.

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Overall the rules for the game are wonderfully simple and straightforward with an emphasis on making the story flow. The character options and other optional rules may be suitable for some groups and not others but think most of the character creation options are good for group that is familiar with the game.

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Next up, the setting ...

Feel free to ask questions and discuss, I'll try and reply as I am able.

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SalmonMax    34

Bwah...for some reason it's hard for me to keep track of the interactions of all these things. Edge and Pool and Effort and so on.

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I THINK I grasp the basics now though.

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I am a little vague on how the Difficulty turns into a target number on a d20. Like, say the Difficulty of a task is determined to be 6, after all the expenditures of Pool and tools and so on...what is the target number for that task on a d20 at that point? Surely not 5. :)

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Also, you can spend various Pools as a result of expending Effort modified by Edge...but I'm fuzzy on which of these traits is an expendable resource, and how that resource is refreshed. You probably already went over most of this in your previous post though. I'll read back over it. :)

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Two things jump out at me as good. First, the player can, by dint of expending resources, achieve a 'story success' which is not random...and the GM always has the option of introducing complications that shake things up a bit, but also offer expanded rewards for success.

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Those are good things. Gives the player the opportunity to shine at a critical moment, gives the GM a vital tool for keeping the pace up and making sure no one gets complacent.

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Thanks!

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jameson (ST)    61

Stats (Might, Speed, Intellect) are made of Pool and Edge.

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E.g.

Might: 13 Pool, 2 Edge

Speed: 12 Pool, 0 Edge

Intellect: 14 Pool, 1 Edge

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That character might also have an Effort of 2.

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So ... if he was trying to bribe a guard (Intellect Task) at Difficulty 4, he could spend points from his Intellect Pool to buy Effort, up to 2 levels. He would subtract 1 point from the total cost of his Effort for having an Edge of 1.

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Assuming he also decided to use some money as an asset, he would reduce the Difficulty from 4 to 1. The target numbers are directly proportional to the difficulty, so reducing the difficulty by 75% is reducing that target number by the same factor; in this case from a TN 12 to a TN of 3.

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That Help?

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Gabe OOC    3

Jameson ninja'ed me there. As a side note, the same thing goes for NPCs. They have their difficulty level, and that x 3 is used as a target number for all interactive rolls by the player. DL 4 = TN 12 to hit, to dodge, to convince them their mother was a hamster... And of course they can have modified TNs as appropriate.

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jameson (ST)    61

Short update. The core book PDF was updated last night to correct some formatting errors and it added a digital Table of Contents for PDF readers, which pretty much was my sole complaint with the product thus far.

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Flip side is that due to a clerical error physical books were delayed a week so it'll be a little while longer yet before I can give my comments on the dead tree book.

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Dave ST    17

The more I read this, the more I want to buy this game and play it.

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When is the hard copy release?

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jameson (ST)    61

The more I read this, the more I want to buy this game and play it.

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When is the hard copy release?

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Indeed...this looks like an actual BOOK I'd like to have, not just a PDF.

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Well, if the PDF is any indication the book should be full-on gorgeous. The official release date for both PDF and dead trees was yesterday the 14th (start of gen-con), but word from Monte is that due to a mix-up the shipping fulfillment for KS backers didn't start shipping until Tuesday instead of last week (the warehouse thought they were to pack everything and ship them all at once instead of pack & ship simultaneously). So I don't know what, if any, impact that will have on FLGSs getting their product for sale.

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On the bright side I am maybe 25% of the way through the setting part, and I think I should be able to get some word down as early as today at lunch or at the latest by the end of the weekend.

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jameson (ST)    61

Part 4: The Setting - Or, Welcome to the Ninth World (part 1)

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Part four is split into five chapters, covering the setting from a high level in chapter ten, to diving into the primary regions of the Steadfast, the Beyond, and beyond the Beyond, and finally diving into the major organizations of the Ninth World.

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Chapter 10: Living In the Ninth World

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A short six page introductory chapter. This gives the highest level overview of the world and setting. Though it is high level it is far from redundant, and does offer details that are not covered in the chapters that follow.

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We learn first that in the year one billion when the sun should, by all rights, be baking the Earth to a crisp that our star carries on at its current size and luminosity, that life on Earth has been protected somehow by a feat of stellar engineering. We also find that there are now only 7 planets in the solar system, with Mercury long gone (not that the citizens of the Ninth World even knew it was there to begin with). The moon has taken a further orbital path from Earth and as a result the Earth’s rotation has slowed slightly to twenty-eight hours per day, which means that a year is now only 313 days long. The Earth itself has changed as well, with most of the landmass once more congealed into a single continent and the remaining globe devoted to a single massive ocean dotted is small islands and archipelagos. Of course most of this is merely offered for verisimilitude, and is likely never to be of relevance to your game.

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What is relevant are some facts about the prior eight ages that still impact the current world. We learn that one of the prior civilizations seeded the planet with nanomachines that still function (though not always as intended) to this day. We learn that another civilization explored multiple cross dimensions, alternate realities, and parallel worlds. And we learn that Earth was at least once before the center of a grand interstellar, and possible intergalactic, empire. We also learn that not all of these past worlds were dominated by man.

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Whatever the reason humankind has returned to Earth and is once more the primary species (though dominant may be a tough argument to make in some regions). Human is a relative term though, for though transhumanity is not a focus of the game it is clear that humans are widely diverse not just genetically but in other ways. Active nanites, cybernetics, mutations, and more may give your character a distinctive look and amazing abilities. Abhumans roam the world as well, often looking little different from civilized man, but much as the line between civilization and savagery is blurred the line between human and abhuman is not cleanly cut.

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Throughout the Steadfast, the easternmost region of the local world, a vast sort of religion is cropping up, gathering people and nations together. The Order of Truth is founded in the study of the old worlds, and their written and spoken language, The Truth, is becoming the dominant language. Literacy is not uncommon, but it is far from universal. Traders often use Shin-Talk when both sides do not speak the same language. Even beyond that there are hundreds of other languages and dialects, some are limited to a region, and others to a single village. Other religions exist, sometimes in competition and other times alongside the Order of Truth. It’s possible to travel the breadth of the land and encounter different beliefs in every village you stop in, whether slightly or drastically so.

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Society is similar to that of medieval Europe as we understand it, but is colored by the leavings of the past; the numenera. Modern (to us) terminology and technology is not strange, and some (like glow globes) are so common as to be routine, while others are very nearly sorcery. In fact, depending on the place some things may be commonplace and others unheard of. Slavery is a common practice, both of humans and abhumans. The laws and specifics differ from land to land.

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The weather, flora, and fauna are familiar and yet different. In a billion years all of the plants and animals we know are gone or changed, and yet all are replaced by something similar. People keep canine-like creatures as pets, heard ruminants for their wool and meat, and deal with rodent pests much as we would. Alien creatures and plants also abound, including those of a transdimensional variety. Likewise mechanical and techno-organic remnants of the prior ages also wander the Ninth World.

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The weather is drier than one might expect and gets cooler in the winter and warmer in the summer. To the south of the Steadfast the region becomes arctic with constant snow and ice cover. Rain and precipitation may not always be water based, with oils and acids, and even creatures being far from unusual.

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Most certainly however, the strangest, and most dangerous, weather of all is the Iron Wind. The Iron Wind are storms of rogue, some say insane, nanite swarms. These storms can reshape the land and everything living and standing in its path. Hills will rise on a steady plain, crowned with pulsing vegetation that reeks like meat festering the sun. Animals will be mutated or even changed into non living materials. The lucky are those who perish, the unlucky survive in agony before they die, and the rare few who survive are always changed by their exposure.

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Next up, the Steadfast...

Feel free to ask questions and discuss, I'll try and reply as I am able.

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jameson (ST)    61

Thanks. I am just about to finish chapter 11 and will likely cover that tonight if I feel up to it. I'm less than halfway through this and I feel like have already read two books worth of materials.

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Okay I'm now in the playing the game section. I like how the rules feel intuitive. they don't make me do mental back flips to understand how they work.

While I am a little leery of the vagueness of the skills, I like how open character creation really is. Any decent and entertaining description of how and why your character can do the things they do flies, or so it seems to me. I like that.

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jameson (ST)    61

Okay I'm now in the playing the game section. I like how the rules feel intuitive. they don't make me do mental back flips to understand how they work.

While I am a little leery of the vagueness of the skills, I like how open character creation really is. Any decent and entertaining description of how and why your character can do the things they do flies, or so it seems to me. I like that.

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Honestly, I find that the more I play with games that have very open skills (or no skills at all - hello FATE Accelerated) the more I realize there is nothing really gained from having super specialized, detailed, morselated, and delineated skills. Either you just have to add more skill points or availability (via whatever means) or your characters end up woefully impotent. The idea is to tell a fun story and have fun doing so, and having broad skills has thus far never gotten in the way of that in my experience.

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That said there is a rather interesting difference between the breadth of some skills. Still, I doubt that I will ever find them damaging to good play though.

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Honestly, I find that the more I play with games that have very open skills (or no skills at all - hello FATE Accelerated) the more I realize there is nothing really gained from having super specialized, detailed, morselated, and delineated skills. Either you just have to add more skill points or availability (via whatever means) or your characters end up woefully impotent. The idea is to tell a fun story and have fun doing so, and having broad skills has thus far never gotten in the way of that in my experience.

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That said there is a rather interesting difference between the breadth of some skills. Still, I doubt that I will ever find them damaging to good play though.

I don't think the skills have to be super rigid and codified but when one option gives you training in all social interactions as a singular skill choice and another only gives you training in lying as a singular skill choice (for example) then that seems, I dunno, a little unfair. I mean I get that not all training is equal, but I think there should be a standard for what a skill choice should get you. Other than that little quibble, and it really is something I could learn to live with in the end, I am very impressed with the book so far.

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jameson (ST)    61

I got a look at the physical book at GenCon today. It is beautiful! :)

*sigh* gotta admit, I'm disappointed that people are getting this who didn't pre-order or back the KS, while those of us who did are a week or more from getting it.

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jameson (ST)    61

Part 4: The Setting - Or, Welcome to the Ninth World (part 2)

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Chapter 11: The Steadfast

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The Steadfast is the westernmost portion of the known world (reference the map I posted above). Made up of nine nations that at best tolerate each other, and at worst war against each other the region is barely held together by the Order of Truth. The Steadfast is also the most arguably civilized portion of the known world; a bastion of human population and kingdoms.

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The chapter is split into ten major sections, each detailing one of the nine nations and the tenth covering the western coast of the continent. These sections are broken out into a handful of sub-sections detailing major cities and sites within the nation. Forty pages is not a lot of room, and indeed a Ninth World Guidebook is one of the future supplements funded by the Kickstarter campaign.

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That said, this is a game that is about discovery and exploration, and in its way a minimalistic approach to the setting at this stage is as much a strength as a weakness as it gives the GM room and reign to create the people, places, and things that will make their campaign functional and unique.

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The people and lands of each nation are described in brief before touching on one or more notable cities and usually a major numenera location at a minimum. The most detailed is the nation of Navarine which includes a major region, four cities, a small town in great detail (Fasten, which gets three pages all to itself), and two major numenera; the Amber Monolith, and the Obelisk of the Water God. The detail given to Fasten is clearly done as a way to show what a typical small town/village in the Ninth World is like. In addition each of the nations get a sidebar that includes hearsay and weird items of note. These are brief but serve wonderfully as story seeds and to again highlight the near endless possibility of the Ninth World.

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The diversity of regions, from the wealthy Navarine to the barely holding together as a country Milave, provides plenty of room to explore and tell different kinds of stories. Some nations are ruled by kings and feudal lords, while others are only ruled nominally by whatever ruler they have, with the citizens being more freemen than subject. The coasts are sailed by men and women who work the sea legitimately and via raiding and piracy. Knights roam the countryside protecting the innocent or crusading for their beliefs. In this way the Ninth World is given life as a world that straddles a traditional fantasy setting with a post apocalyptic science fiction in the far flung future.

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The hyperlinked cross-references and edge-of-page bound details help to expand the world description allowing the reader to investigate a creature that is referenced without breaking up the text with game mechanics. NPCs are likewise able to be statted in the simple and quick way that the system allows in the space of a margin entry without breaking into the text. Additional margin entries might include overhear pieces of conversation, or notes on numenera or peoples.

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The other thing to note is that the map provides locations for items that are detailed in white, while providing others that are left for the GM in gray. This includes cities, fortresses, and ruins or items of the prior ages. A GM will put a strong fingerprint on the world of his game by what he decides the locales are, and so a player could probably play two long term campaigns in the same region and experience two vastly different worlds.

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My Top Five Bits o’ The World Thus Far

  • The Pytharon Empire - Glowing roads that appear and disappear in the evening. Once you start down that path you cannot leave it and will end up a place you can get to no other way.

  • Milave - A pit of unknown depth that constantly emits a cold mist. The further down you go the colder it gets. Nobody knows how deep it is.

  • The Western Sea - A fish that speaks perfect Truth (the language) and likes to chat up fishermen.

  • Eldan Firth - Upon making contact with a civilization of octopi, their first words: “Oh. You’re back.”

  • Ancuan - The city of Ishlav, victim of a numenera that destroyed all non-living matter in a 2 mile radius, but left anything living alone, or made it more healthy.

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Up next, The Beyond ...

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