Thursday 20 March 2014

Seven months in the Ninth World

Art credit: Monte Cook Games

Possible spoilers ahead.

"The there are several heads here, sticking out of the water. Most are screaming, horrific blood-curdling screams," I wait for the players to take the bait.

The Jack surveyed the situation cautiously. He quickly discovered that the disembodied heads were attached to stalks that disappeared under the water, connected to a large, vicious crab-like being waiting on the floor.

I decided that they had lingered too long anyway. A hideous, gnarled claw emerged from the murky water and grasped at the Nano, who struggled to break free. Suddenly he disappeared into the disgusting pool, the Jack and the Glaive looking on in horror.

Nobody perished in the ensuing battle besides the creature. They hammered a large spike into its carapace -  a spike that once set would never move. That's Numenera, I guess.

Art credit: Monte Cook Games
Cyphers, one-use pieces of esoteric technology, were now becoming commonplace for my intrepid explorers. Most commonly they found themselves attaching crystalline nodules to their weapons, whether it was to drastically speed up their swing or to release harmful nanobots into the opponent's bloodstream. Even the crab creature's death husk contained a few of these weird little toys. Rolling for them on the table became an event the group loved, and I loved flipping through the manual to describe what their level six Grav pill did.

The beauty came from using cyphers in tandem.

"So he's going to put on his anti gravity boots, carry these guys up the side of the tower, cover the
wall with diffusion spray and we'll float in to the top floor," said the Glaive, "While I climb up the side of the wall Spider-man style."

This tower was rammed full of cultish wizards, you understand. But what the hell, how cool would it be if they actually pulled it off?

Moments later they're barrelling through a solid wall, rolling on the floor and facing The Magister, who looks on in amusement. Mostly because he has a mechanical dragon.

Then it all got a bit heated. Force fields were being activated, fireballs were flying through the air and some obsidian android lady was making mincemeat of one of the newly acquired Jacks with her poison talons. Combat was lightening fast. I never had to roll, what with the players rolling for their attacks but also to see if they evade. Numenera uses what is essentially a universal level number - you have to match or better one number in whatever action you're taking. It's breezy and I find myself using its flexibility to my advantage (and the players to theirs).

"I'm going to place the dragon in the corner inside a force shield," exclaimed the Nano. The Magister, meanwhile, had turned himself invisible and the players were figuring out ways of making this not the case.

Seconds later a lumpy sheet was bombing it around the room like a bad cartoon ghost. I laughed at the plan, but decided to have the Magister just, you know, pull it off his head.

In the background 18 emaciated individuals were strapped into some kind of machine, harvesting power from a star.

Numenera is full of scenes like this. Baffling, bewildering moments that crop up in your mind's eye long after you've experienced them. It's a game that celebrates the weird, rewarding curiosity. I gave out experience points for communicating with a sentient telepathic machine.

I've been playing with my group for around seven months and I only feel like we've merely dipped our toes into what the Ninth World has to offer. It's vast and full of history. It would take many years to fully explore it, and even then it would be added to by our collective imaginations.

I'm not ready to leave yet.

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