Numenera

Elevator Pitch: Thundarr the Barbarian, only even farther into the future.

Core Mechanic: 1d20 vs. modifiable DC

Dice used: d20, d6, d100

Summary

One billion years in the future, the people of earth live among the bones of eight previous civilizations. In the past, the inhabitants of earth (who weren’t always humans; history suggests the human race went extinct at least once) possessed technologies that let them reshape the world, and indeed the entire solar system, to their will. They explored this universe, with one of the ancient civilizations having been the center of a galactic empire. At least one even explored beyond, by opening routes to other dimensions. They controlled matter at the atomic level, with nano machines saturating nearly everything.

But each of them fell, in time. Now it is the Ninth World, and humanity lives in the shadow of its forbearers’ accomplishments. Great machines hum beneath the earth, performing tasks long since forgotten. Satellites still floating above beam information down, but few remain who know how to receive it, let alone understand it if they do. The inhabitants of the earth call these relics the “numenera,” and make use of them as best they can (though not always as they were intended to be used). But most live in comparative barbarism, with small competing nations and agrarian societies dominating. Still, the numenera wait to be rediscovered, by those with the skill and intelligence to brave the ancient ruins . . .

System Features

Characters choose one of three types: glaive, for those who specialize in physical feats and battle skills, nanos, for those who have learned to use the numenera to produce effects that seem like magic to most observers, or jacks, for those who learn a little of both and more besides. A character also gets a descriptor (a sort of general archetype) and a focus (something special), such that a final character is “a Graceful Nano who Rides the Lightning” or “a Clever Jack who Crafts Illusions.”

Characters have three Attributes of Might, Speed, and Intellect, each of which has its own rating in Pool and Edge. An attribute’s Pool measures how many points they can spend to power abilities or reduce difficulties, and also acts as a health pool of sorts; damage done is subtracted from the pools, with each one that hits zero moving a character down the injury track. Edge, on the other hand, allows the character to reduce the cost of a spend by its value, so for instance a character with Intellect Edge 1 can use a psychic blast that would normally cost 1 Intellect for free. Pools can be partially refreshed up to four times a day, with each refresh costing

All rolls in the game are made by the players, against difficulties determined by the level of challenge the GM sets before them; a task’s difficulty is three times its level, and the character needs to roll that or higher on a d20 to succeed. A player can reduce the difficulty of a challenge by being trained or specialized in a Skill related to it (Trained reducing difficulty by 1 and Specialization reducing it by 2), by having an Asset (such as a tool or some other advantage), or by exerting Effort by spending points of the relevant pool (3 for the first step down, and 2 for each subsequent, limited by her total Effort score).

A player can allow a reroll of any die (her own or someone else at the table) by spending an XP point. XP is earned by making significant discoveries, achieving specific goals, or by accepting GM Intrusions. At any time, the GM can Intrude to add an additional complication or otherwise cause trouble for a PC in exchange for 2 XP, one of which the player must give to another character. Players can refuse these intrusions by spending a point, in addition to not taking the bribe.

Scenario

Vortex

A mysterious cult worships something called “the Vortex” in a temple like nothing anyone in the Ninth World has ever seen. PCs explore the strange complex to find a missing boy, and become embroiled in multiple scenarios, one of which might just take them unimaginably far from home!

Getting the Game

You can order the book and PDF directly from the publisher here. You can also get the PDF from DriveThruRPG.

Numenera

Ann Arbor Game Day zcipher