Wednesday, October 1, 2014

One Shot Gaming Sessions #2: Numenera

The next one-shot is going to be Numenera.

The basic concept of Numenera is that it is an indescribably vast time in the future.  It is in the early days of the Ninth World, analogous to the medieval period of our own time but with a difference. Eight previous incredible civilizations have risen and fallen in the past leaving behind a vastly changed Earth that is much larger with a 28 hour day and a sun that has had its life time extended many times past when it was supposed to die.  Some of the past civilizations were human, some were alien, some spread across the stars, some spread across dimensions.  All of them left behind tech so far advanced that it would be considered magic.  However, all the residents of the world know that these wonders are based on the workings of other mortal beings.

For this game, we're going to avoid some of the character options in the back of the book such as playing mutants and alien races.

Character Creation

Character creation in Numenera is a simple matter of filling in the blanks on this sentence:

"I am a (descriptor) (type) who (focus)."  also stated as "I am a (adjective) (noun) who (verbs)."

There is a list of these from which the players can choose which I summarize below.

Before that, I will mention some other things.


While the game gives a list of suggested skills and the types, foci and descriptors have specific examples, the game basically allows you to make your own skills to fit your character as you want.

Skills reduce the difficulty of tasks.  There's two levels of training to skills:

Trained - reduces the difficulty of tasks related to the skill by 1 level.

Specialized - reduces the difficulty of tasks related to the skill by 2 levels.

The game says that if you gain three levels of training in a skill, attack or defense that the third level of training is wasted. I doubt we'll have a situation where a beginning character gets three levels of training in one task, but if it does happen, I'll allow turning the "wasted" level to a level of training in a related task.


Might/Speed/Intellect Pools

These are the stats of the game.  They determine both the health of the character and the pool of resources that are spent to perform abilities.  As such, using your powers can exhaust you and push you to death as well.

If one of the character's pools is reduced to 0 they become Impaired.  If two are reduced to 0 then they become Debilitated. If all three pools are reduced to 0, then they are Dead.


Effort represents how many levels of effort a character may use. At 1st tier they can only produce 1 level of effort.  Effort reduces the difficulty of a task.  In the normal game, you have to declare Effort before rolling.  In this game, you can declare Effort after rolling but before the GM declares effect. Effort normally costs 3 points from a pool related to the task. (Jumping would be Might, running would be Speed, debate would be Intellect).  Effort can also be used to increase the damage of attacks.


Edge is an ability that reduces the cost of things by its level.  So if a character has a Might Edge of 1 and has a power that costs 1 Might to use, that power costs 0 points (as such, most Fighting Moves are essentially free to use for Glaives).  Edge also reduces the cost of Effort.  Edge only applies once to an action, so if you use Effort with a power that requires 1 point to use, an Edge of 1 will only reduce the cost to 3 (canceling 1 point of cost).


Weapons give set damage based on their size. Light weapons deal 2 damage. Medium weapons deal 4 damage. Heavy weapons deal 6 damage.

Armor reduces damage suffered.  You can only wear one type of armor, but armor from multiple sources stacks. So a person with cybernetic implants, a numenera force field and worn armor all stack.  Wearing armor costs a set number of Might points per hour worn and reduces the Speed pool while worn, being practiced in armor reduces these penalties.

Light armor costs 1 Might per hour and reduces Speed by 2.  Medium armor costs 2 Might per hour and reduces Speed by 3.  Heavy armor costs 3 Might per hour and reduces Speed by 5.

Light Armor gives +1 Armor. Special Light Armor and Medium Armor gives +2 Armor. Special Medium Armor and Heavy Armor gives +3 Armor.

Shields reduce the difficulty of Speed defenses by 1.  This stacks with training in Speed Defense, so a person Specialized in Speed Defense and carrying a Shield reduces the difficulty of an attack by 3.  (Someone who Masters Defense can reduce it by one step further).


Each of the types also gives three example "backgrounds" which are pure fluff as to where your character gained their abilities.  There is also a chart of random background details that can be rolled on for further details.


This is a warrior type character. 

Might: 11
Speed: 10
Intellect: 7
Extra Points: 6 (allocated as desired)
Effort: 1
Might Edge: 1
Speed Edge: 1
Intellect Edge: 0

Carry up to two Cyphers (one shot special items)
Training in One Physical Skill
Practiced with Armor
Use all Weapons
Two Fighting Moves

Equipment: (best to choose after you have chosen your descriptor and focus)
Two Weapons OR One Weapon and one Shield
Light or Medium armor
Two random Cyphers
One random oddity (flavor gadget)
5 shins (coin)
If you chose a ranged weapon, you get 12 pieces of ammunition.


Intensive Training - You have gained your abilities from secret or intense training from some mentor or sect.

Inborn Traits - You are descended from a line of humans genetically engineered to have superior instincts and abilities.

Biomechanical Modification - You have been altered somehow and received cybernetic implants which enhance your fighting abilities.

Fighting Moves (cost)

Bash - (1 Might) deal 1 less damage but stun opponent.

No Need for Weapons - unarmed attacks count as medium weapons instead of light.

Pierce - (1 Speed) Ranged attack with sharp point deals +1 damage.

Thrust - (1 Might) Melee stab with sharp point deals +1 damage.

Trained without Armor - Trained with Speed defenses while not wearing armor.


This is a magical type character. 

Intellect: 12
Extra Points: 6 (allocated as desired)
Effort: 1
Might Edge: 0
Speed Edge: 0
Intellect Edge: 1

Carry up to three Cyphers (one shot special items)

Practiced with Light and Medium Weapons
Two esoteries (spells)

Equipment: (best to choose after you have chosen your descriptor and focus)
One weapon
Book about the numenera
Three random Cyphers
One random oddity (flavor gadget)
4 shins (coin)
If you chose a ranged weapon, you get 12 pieces of ammunition.


Forbidden Secrets - Your powers come pure intelligence and understanding far and away greater than that of most other people.

Psionics - You have some psionic talent that you use to interact with the numenera that inundates the world around you.

Ports and Plugs - You have been implanted with various machines which allow you to interact with the numenera that flood this world and allow you to perform wonders.

Esoteries/Spells (Cost
Note that some of the focus powers change the special effects of your esoteries.

Hedge Magic - (1 Intellect) You can perform small tricks a la D&D Prestidigitation.

Onslaught - (1 Intellect) choose force or mindslice. Force onslaught deals 4 damage. Mindslice deals 2 Intellect damage but ignores armor, some things may be immune to mindslice. 

Push - (2 Intellect) push a target in any direction you wish, but too crude to be used to manipulate things. Can't close doors or pull levers, for example.

Scan - (2 Intellect) analyze objects and creatures within a 10 ft cube.

Ward - Constant mystical shield is +1 armor.


This is a hybrid type character. 

Might: 10
Speed: 10
Extra Points: 6 (allocated as desired)
Effort: 1
1 Edge in one stat of your choice

Carry up to two Cyphers (one shot special items)
Training in one skill of your choice (except attack and defense)
Practiced with light and medium weapons
Flex Skill - choose one skill to have training in at the beginning of each day.  Cannot choose a skill you have training in normally.
Two Tricks of the Trade (include some Esoteries and some Fighting Moves)

Equipment: (best to choose after you have chosen your descriptor and focus)
Two Weapons
Light armor
Explorer's Tools
Pack of Light Tools
Two random Cyphers
One random oddity (flavor gadget)
8 shins (coin)
If you chose a ranged weapon, you get 12 pieces of ammunition.

Born Lucky - You're one of those people born with genetic advantages via past engineering or beneficial mutation.

School of Hard Knocks - You learned everything you do the hard way, by trial and error...oh so much error.

Cobbled Jumble - A little bit of genetic modification, a little bit of cybernetics, a little bit of secret training and a lot of experimentation.

Tricks of the Trade

Bash - (1 Might) deal 1 less damage but daze opponent

Hedge Magic - (1 Intellect) you can perform small tricks a la D&D Prestidigitation.

Pierce - (1 Speed) Ranged attack with sharp point deals +1 damage.

Practiced in Armor - Reduce penalties for wearing armor.

Skill with Defense - Choose Intellect, Might or Speed, gain training in that Defense.  Can be taken three times, once for each Defense.

Thrust - (1 Might) Melee attack with sharp weapon deals +1 damage.

Trained without Armor - Trained in Speed defense while not wearing armor.


Descriptors increase some of your pools/stats, give you training in some skills and grant special abilities.

Charming - +2 Intellect; increased skill with mind-affecting abilities; increased skill with positive social skills.  Increased difficulty with lore/study and willpower tasks. +10 shin (coins).  Have an important contact.

Clever - +2 Intellect; increased skill with lies and trickery; increased defenses resisting mental effects; trained in assessing the following: danger, lies, quality, importance, function or power. Increased difficulty with lore/study tasks.  +10 shins (coins)

Graceful - +2 Speed, training with balance and careful movement, trained in physical performing arts, trained in Speed defense.

Intelligent - +2 Intellect. Trained in area of knowledge of player choice.  Trained in remembering things you directly experienced.

Learned - +2 Intellect. Trained in three areas of knowledge of your choice.  Increased difficulty in charm, persuasion and etiquette. +two books on topics of your choice.

Mystical/Mechanical - +2 Intellect. Trained in Numenera.  Sense "Numenera" after 1 minute of careful observation. Hedge Magic esotery (basically the classic cantrip spell).  Increased difficulty in charm, persuasion and deception. Additional random oddity. 

Rugged - Trained in tasks related to running, jumping, swimming and climbing. Trained in riding, placating or training natural animals.  Trained in identifying or using natural plants. Increased difficulty in charm, persuasion, etiquette and deception. Explorer's pack (if already have an explorer's pack: +50 ft of rope, +2 days of rations, +1 ranged weapon and 12 pieces of ammunition).

Stealthy - +2 Speed. Trained in all stealthy tasks. Trained in lies and trickery. Trained in all special abilities involving illusion or trickery. Sneaky not fast, increased difficulty in movement related tasks.

Strong - +4 Might. Trained in breaking inanimate objects. Trained in jumping. Extra medium or heavy weapon.

Strong-Willed - +4 Intellect. Trained in resisting mental effects.  Trained in focus and concentration.  Willful, not brilliant, increased difficulty with puzzles, memorization or lore.

Swift - +4 Speed. Trained in initiative. Trained in running. Fast, not graceful, increased difficulty to balance.

Tough - +1 Armor. Regain +1 Health on recovery rolls. Trained in Might defense actions. Extra light weapon.


Each focus represents special avenues of training or powers unique to the character in general, there should not be duplicate foci in one party.  Also, I am banning the Howls at the Moon focus because it is rather troublesome.  I'm not listing all the benefits for these, just the main points but several of these grant extra equipment or change the effects of some of your esoteries (if you have some). For example a nano who explores dark places has attack esoteries with shadow effects one that bears a halo of fire has fire spells.

Bears a Halo of Fire - Character has fire powers. Equally fits Glaives, Nanos and Jacks. First power is a shroud of flame around the body.
Connection: Your fire cannot harm one of the other PCs.

Carries a Quiver - Extremely skilled archer or master of ranged weapon. Befits Glaives and Jacks. First skill is ability to use Intellect or Speed for archery and training in crafting arrows. Start with a well-made bow and 12 arrows.
Connections: One of the other PCs gave you your bow.

Commands Mental Powers - Telepathy, not mind control at least initially. Best usable by Nanos, but useful for others as well. First power is telepathy for communication.
Connection: One of the PCs is uniquely in sync with your mind and you are in constant telepathic contact with them.

Controls Beasts - Control animals. Usable by every type of character. First power is a level 2 beast companion.
Connection: One of the other PCs really disturbs your animals for some reason.

Controls Gravity - You control gravity. Usable by all types. First power is the ability to hover slowly up into the air for 10 minutes, no horizontal motion control (drift with wind).
Connection: You accidentally sent one of the other PCs flying high into the air in the past and they barely survived. Their reaction is up to them.

Crafts Illusion - You create illusions somehow. Mostly nanos, occasionally jacks, rarely glaives. Initial power is ability to create a minor illusion in a 10ft cube with sight and sound for up to 10 minutes.
Connection: One of the other PCs sees through all your illusions. Up to you whether or not you are aware of it or not.

Crafts Unique Objects - You are a master crafter. Mostly jacks, glaives focus on weapons and armor usually, nanos sometimes are crafters. First power is training in crafting two types of items and in identifying the function of any object.
Connection: One other PC has an extra piece of regular equipment crafted by you, they choose what it is.

Employs Magnetism - Cut-right Magneto. Any character is likely to have this. First power is ability to move metal, no fine control, short range with strength approximating average human adult.
Connection: The metal objects belong to one other PC always clink and clatter if you use your powers while they are within short range.

Entertains - You are the entertainer! Best for jacks, but some nanos and glaives as well. First power improves recoveries of the party during rests by +1 health due to your cheer and levity.
Connection: One of the other PCs is your worst critic. Your abilities can't help them.

Exists Partially Out of Phase - You don't entirely exist in this world. Jacks get the best use, nanos can get some use. Glaives have mixed use out of this. First power is ability to walk through walls with difficulty, not defensive phasing.
Connection: One of the other PCs helped you gain control of your powers.

Explores Dark Places - You are a tomb raider and are adapted to using the darkness to your advantage. Most common among jacks, but usable to all, tend to be called shadow jacks, shadow warriors or shadowcasters depending. First power is training in listening, climbing, jumping and balancing.
Connection: One PC is a long time partner of yours. You both gain +1 to rolls when you are cooperating on the same task.

Fights with Panache - Defeating enemies is secondary to fighting with style. Swashbucklers, Spider-Man, Zorro and the like. Most common for jacks and glaives, rare for nanos. First power is ability to flourish your blade in a way that gives chosen targets within short range a +1 on their next roll.
Connection: Choose one of the other PCs, you are always trying to impress them for some reason. Maybe they're a rival, you want their respect or you might even be courting them.

Focuses Mind over Matter - You are telekinetic, make with the Prom Night. Jacks are the most common, glaives and nanos also find it useful. First power is to deflect attacks.
Connection: One of the other PCs cause unusual fluctuations in your power when they stand near you.  Sometimes your powers are disrupted, sometimes they're overcharged.

Fuses Flesh and Steel - You are a cyborg, maybe you had pieces of your body replaced or maybe you are part of a secret race that naturally develops biomechanical upgrades. Useful to anyone. First power is +1 Armor, +3 Might, +3 Speed. You require special repairs to heal the first 5 damage lost from a physical wound.
Connection: One of the other PCs knows your true nature, if it is obvious, then they know another related secret. For example, they might know a word that shuts you down for 10 minutes.

Howls at the Moon (banned) - Lycanthrope.  The first few levels of this are made for party conflict and team killing, so not using it.

Hunts with Great Skill - You are the great tracker. Usually jacks, but useful for glaives and nanos as well. First power is training in identifying and following tracks and ALL movement tasks (swimming, running, jumping, climbing and balancing).
Connections: One of the PCs once witnessed you show mercy to your prey and you hope they keep it secret.

Leads - You are an inspiring leader. All three types of characters get use from this.  First power is training in ALL social interactions. Also you can give "Good Advice" to make someone trained in a task for one round.
Connection: One of the other PCs was a follower of yours, but you have now come to see each other as equals.

Lives in the Wilderness - You dwell in the wilds.  Glaives and jacks are the most common to take this option, but some nanos take this as well. First power is training in climbing, swimming, wilderness navigation, and identifying plants and creatures.
Connection: You can't help but feel contempt for one of the other PC's "civilized" ways which you perceive as showing disdain for your natural habits.

Masters Defense - You are a master of the shield and other sorts of defense. Glaives get the most obvious use of this, but jacks and nanos sometimes take up this skill as well. First power is mastery of the shield to improve its defensive benefits at the cost of increasing difficulty of attacks each round you use the ability.
Connection: One of the other PCs protected you from harm recently and you feel indebted to them.

Masters Weaponry - You are a master of a particular weapon. Glaives are the most common to take this path, but jacks and nanos get use out of this as well.  First power is +1 to damage with chosen weapon (if a nano, your spells take the shape of your chosen weapon and benefit from this, by my ruling.)
Connection: One of the other PCs shows potential in your chosen weapon.  You would like to teach them.  Whether you are a competent teacher is up to you.  Whether they are interested is up to them.

Murders - You are an assassin with skills toward that end. Jacks are the most common assassins but nanos and glaives are deadly assassins as well.  First power is training in stealth and disguise and a bonus to surprise attacks.
Connection: Only one of the other PCs knows your true identity, background and profession. To everyone else that is a closely held secret.

Rages - You are a berserker capable of taking apart the enemy. You are not forced to attack every living thing that moves (for that see Howls at the Moon and why I banned it). Glaives are the best berserkers. First power is a frenzy, you can't use intellect in frenzy, but you gain +1 to Might and Speed Edge (not stats).
Connection: Choose one other PC, you are strangely protective of that character and don't want to see them come to harm.

Rides the Lightning - You have control over lightning. Nanos can make the best use of this, but jacks and glaives can make good use of it as well.  The first power is a shocking touch (can be used through weapons) and the ability to temporarily charge up depleted artifacts.
Connection: One of the other PCs can be carried by you when you use movement powers you get at 2nd and 5th tier.  So this connection is not very applicable to a one-shot.

Talks to Machines - You have a natural ability to interact with machines almost as if speaking to them. All characters can use this but nanos get the most use out of it. First power is trained in all tasks with electrical machines and the ability to activate machines from a distance.
Connections: One of the other PCs doesn't seem to deal with machines, if he is standing next to a machine you've achieved a friendly rapport with that machine operates at a lower level than normal.

Wears a Sheen of Ice - You command the powers of ice and cold. Nanos are the most common ice mages and get the best use of it, but glaives in ice armor or wielding ice weapons do occur and some jacks work as well. The first power is ice armor granting +1 armor for 10 minutes, protects you from cold environments and +2 armor versus cold while active.
Connection: Choose one other PC, for some quirk of the numenera if they are standing next to you when you use the ice armor, they are also protected.

Wields Power With Precision - You have unimaginable skill in the use of esoteries(spells) and numenera. Nanos get the most use of this, jacks with esoteries get some use as well.  Glaives get no use from this focus. The first power is +5 Intellect.
Connection: Pick one other PC, you've given them a ward that renders them immune to all of your powers unless they choose to be affected.

Wields Two Weapons at Once - You use two weapons in your fighting style. Glaives and jacks are the most usual for this skill, nanos almost never take this power, but it is possible. The first power is the ability to dual wield two light weapons.
Connection: Choose one other PC, you have trained so often with them that when you are back to back with them you both gain a +1 bonus to Speed defenses.

Works Miracles - You have a healing touch. Nanos are the most common healers, but self-healing glaives are dangerous and jacks sometimes have this ability too. The first power is a healing touch, each time you attempt to heal the same creature, the task becomes more difficult.
Connection: Pick one of the other PCs, that character suspects you of being a messiah or supernatural creature. You can choose whether or not you are aware of this belief.

Works the Back Alleys - You are a thief and burglar.  Most commonly jacks, but nano and glaive thieves exist. The first power is training in sneaking, lockpicking and pickpocketing.
Connections: One of the other PCs knew you before and convinced you to give up crime for adventure or other pursuits.

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