Saturday, March 2, 2013

Monte Cook, you magnificent bastard

He's done it again. My wallet = his bitch.

Anyone that knows me or that has followed the blog for a time already knows I love a bunch of Monte's previous work, especially Ptolus, which is awesome for production value and content.

Although I skipped the kickstarter (don't recall why, but I suspect I just wasn't feeling it), I have gone ahead and committed to the preorder for his new game - Numenera. I fully expect this to at least match Ptolus in quality of materials and potential for ages of play.

It took me a while to come to the decision to preorder Ptolus as well, but I had more time than kickstarters typically provide and back then I still got in early enough to get a signed and numbered copy of Ptolus. I'm kicking myself for not trusting Monte and going ahead and supporting this kickstarter like I should have.

I hope Monte is ok with me posting this image from his work. If not I'll gladly remove it.

From reading the website, the play test reports, and looking at the posted art work for the game, it strikes me as if someone took a blender and filled it with bits of The Dying Earth, Call of Cthulhu, Gamma World, Rifts (Paladium), and a dash of old Heavy Metal magazine stories, especially the Moebius works. It also has been influenced by Gene Wolf's Book of the New Sun series and I suspect Mike Grell's The Warlord comic series.

Looking at the art of Numenera you can already see some of the Moebius influence. These two pieces are by Moebius for comparison of influence:
The Numenera books are going to be art rich to help convey the mystery and awe of the setting. I recommend going to the site and looking at the gallery showing just some of what is to come. Lead artist Kieran Yanner is brilliantly talented. While I personally find some of his black and white work too heavy and thick, he really shines with his color work, especially his landscapes. The manuals and support material are going to be a treat for the eyes.

In recent news, the people responsible for the popular computer game Torment: Planescape are already committed to producing a sequel in this new setting. The title has been announced as Torment: Tides of Numenera. The kickstarter for the computer game will be announced at some point in the future.

For those not yet ready to go prowling the game website, the short version is this - it is a billion years in the future. Many very advanced great civilisations have risen and fallen. The current inhabitants of earth are trying to use artifacts from the past to build a new great civilization. Arthur C. Clark's third law is in full effect: any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Numenera promises to be interesting from a system perspective as well. What information on the site indicates and what podcast interviews Monte has done seem to point to a simple and flexible set of mechanics.

Difficulty is determined by a level times 3 and can be modified downward by skills and other factors. For example if a creature was difficulty 5 to hit (5x3=15) you roll the d20 to meet or exceed that target. If you had some piece of numenera that functioned as a targeting device, it might knock the difficulty down by 1 meaning you instead need to roll 12. Conceivably you could use a combination of skill, effort (a limited resource based on character stats), and available numenera to reduce a target number so low you wouldn't need to roll.

It has also been mentioned that the players do most of the rolling. The main dice are a d20, percentile dice for the GM to use when preparing scenarios, and a d6 that will be used only occasionally.

It is unfortunate that I lack a regular committed play group currently or I would absolutely love to beg Monte to allow us to play test the system. (The weekly crew are involved with a fantasy sandbox being run by bighara of Echoes From the Geek Cave).

For character classes there are three types: Jack of all trades (Jacks), Nanos, and Glaives. See if you guess what they equate to?  If you said Thief/Bard, Wizard/Sorcerer, and Fighter, you win! Not that there's a prize or anything.

Character creation is fairly simple and can be broken down to a one sentence Mad-lib structure. "I am a blank, blank, that blanks; with the blanks being filled by a short descriptive word or statement, the class, and a focus. Example: I am a strong glaive that excels with javelins.

Experience is handled differently than most traditional games, but will sound familiar to the OSR crowd. Combat isn't where XP comes from, instead it results from discoveries. Sure, you'll have fights, but the goal is the numenera you seek and the story. Also, players can grant each other xp for good ideas, etc, and the GM can influence things by giving additional xp.

There's a lot more to know about Numenera than I could include in a single blog post. With that in mind I highly recommend you seek out the game website and even give a listen to the fan podcast Transmissions From The Ninth World for more detailed information.

And as a parting gift, more Moebius art:

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