Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Great Gobs o' Goo!

Here's an example of cyphers for Numenera, and one artifact at the end. Level is a basic catch-all for anything you might want to do with the item: reverse engineer it, identify it, add it to another device, or whatever. External just describes how it's applied. Other cyphers are internal (like pills or injections), wearable (like jewelry or temporary tattoos), or useable (basically describing hand-held devices like tricorders or flashlights). Depletion is the roll you make every time the item is used to see if you've used it up or broken it.  If you roll a 1, this is the last time the artifact works properly, if at all.

Anoetic means the cypher is fairly simple and stable: it's a pill or has only one button and is extremely easy to use.  Occultic cyphers have lots of levers and controls on them and are more complex to use, though generally only one combination of settings has any noticeable effect, and it's still a one-use item.

Goo actually describes a variety of substances that are usually found in soft synth tubes.  The tubes, even empty, are greatly prized by explorers for their near indestructibility while their bright colors make empty tubes excellent toys for children.  Being brightly labeled (usually), most folks enjoy a +2 on rolls to identify a tube of goo.

The tubes tend to be about an inch across and almost four inches long.  They’re pinched closed at both ends.  One end is just sealed soft synth, and it’s as difficult to pierce or damage as the rest (Difficulty 7 to penetrate or pierce) while the other end sports a brightly colored tab of stiff synth.  To use most goo, you tear off the stiff synth tab then squeeze the goo out onto yourself.  With only a bit of coaxing, the goo will spread to cover a single being.  There’s usually more than enough goo to cover a single creature or object, though attempting to spread the goo out over multiple uses or people causes the stuff to immediately decompose.

Decomposing goo usually liquefies and slides cleanly off the person or object it’s been put on [GM intrusion: the goo stains clothing it’s been spread over.] or evaporates in a quickly dissipating cloud that smells like mulch or a bog.  This decomposition tends to be rather sudden when it happens.

Goo spreads to cover the entire body in a shiny, clean layer.  It will go over clothes and does the cover the face, smoothing over the features to make who ever’s wearing it unrecognizable.  However, those wearing goo can (usually) see and breathe through the goo easily.

All goos are anoetic cyphers.

Level: 2d6
External: goo
Effect: This midnight blue goo forms small, rigid scales across its entire surface.  The result is heavy armor that lasts for 14 hours.  If it’s spread directly across the skin, it imposes no penalties; if spread over clothes it imposes the penalties of medium armor.

Level: 2d6
External: goo
Effect: Translucent crystal blue, this goo must be spread across bare skin to be effective.  It tingles on the skin and massages the dermis and higher layers of muscle.  It improves the wearer’s Edge for all stats by +1, but won’t raise any above 3.  It lasts for 14 hours and evaporates into a minty-fresh cloud.

Level: 2d6
External: goo
Effect: This rich green goo restores +1 point to any one stat every minute.  After half-an- hour, it will restore a level of health, then dissipate.

Level: 1d10
External: goo
Effect: This goo seals a person in a tight cocoon of purple goo.  Legs are pressed together and arms are trapped at the sides.  Those outside the cocoon can change the translucence of the goo (blocking the sight of the captive), as well as how well, if at all, sound travels through it (though they cannot suffocate the captive).  The cocoon lasts for 28 hours, or until someone outside dissipates it.  From inside, it’s a Might feat with a difficulty of 8 to break out of the cocoon.

Level: 1d6
External: goo
Effect: The translucent crimson sensation goo heightens the sensations of anyone wearing it.  While it can reduce the Difficulty of a challenge to a character’s tactile sensitivity (lock-picking, safe-cracking, reading Braille, and the like), it also reduces the difficulty of torturing, seducing or otherwise influencing the gooed character via touch.  In addition, anytime a character wearing this goo is hurt in combat, the sensation is so overwhelming that they must make an Intellect check against a Difficulty of 4 or pass out for 1d6 minutes.  This goo last 14 hours + 2d6 hours.

Level: 2d6
External: goo
Effect: X-ray goo is translucent green and glows with a cold electric light.  It allows others to inspect the internels of whatever or whoever is covered.   It lowers by one the Difficulty of any task where such x-ray vision could be useful, such as picking locks, diagnosing disease or internal injuries, or the like.  It lasts four hours.

Level: 1d6
External: goo
Effect: Once smeared on a body, this opaque goo writhes with brilliant colors in wild, mind-bending patterns.  The colors and patterns appear to be affected by the mood of the wearer, but just how isn’t entirely clear.  Wearing this good impedes the vision of the wearer not at all, but it can be an asset in public performance tasks.

Level: 1d6
External: goo
Effect: Whatever this goo was originally designed to do, it’s toxic to most life in the Ninth World.  Anyone wearing this goo (which comes in a variety of colors) immediately suffers a wound equal to the level of the goo and then another every 5 minutes they continue to wear the stuff.  Removing this goo is often (50% of the time) easy, but the rest of the time it’s a Might task with a Difficulty of 4.

Level: 2d6
External: goo
Effect: While wearing this white goo, you’ll never be too hot.  Or too cold.  It keeps your body temperature constant, which for most people makes it feel like it’s a pleasant spring day.  It lasts 28 hours.

Level: 1d6+1
Form: a crystal and synth box six inches tall, 14 inches wide, and 16 inches deep.
Effect: this artifact has a panel on the top perforated with thousands of tiny, octagonal holes.  If a pound of organic matter is placed on that panel it will start to “melt” into the machine while an array of holographic controls will appear in the air over the machine.  Using it to get the goo you want is a Difficulty 7 Intellect challenge (anything that beats Difficulty 3 will produce a tube of goo, just not necessarily the one the user was trying to get).
Depletion: 1-10

[GM Intrusion: the machine spits out a goo with a completely blank label.  The only way to learn what’s in it is to use it.]

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Numenera in the Wild

Ran my first game of Numenera last night. Character creation is quick and easy, but you have to be a bit careful as you go through to hit and understand every point. Weapon skills, for instance, work differently from other skills (not sure why) in that you start at a negative, and then train up to no modifiers before getting the usual modifiers. Also, since each of the three aspects (adjective, noun, and phrase) can overlap in certain areas, you need to go through each carefully to make sure you note everything, plus sometimes hopping back-and-forth to avoid redundancy. Even at our level of inexperience and with flipping around in the book, we went from concept to completed character in something like a half-hour.

The mechanics are fairly simple, but nearly all of it is in the hands of the players. This can cause some confusion. I’m working on a cheat-sheet of ways to lower target numbers for my players. Hopefully that’ll make things run more smoothly, though honestly they ran pretty smoothly last night.

It didn’t take ‘em long to discover the double-jeopardy of stat pools being both dice-roll modifiers and hit points. They were quick to utilize the environment to help them avoid dangers and to pit monsters against each other Harryhausen-style.

And yeah, Numenera has a definite old-school feel. It promotes rulings over rules. Its rules are fairly simple and few in number. There’s not much emphasis on gear (weapons, for instance, are categorized as small, medium, or large and that pretty much tells you everything you need to know about them; in the mechanics of combat, there’s no difference between an axe, a saber, and a spear). A monster’s stat line looks like this: steel spider [level 3(9), health: 9, Damage 3, Armor, see page 260]. As stated above, it encourages lateral thinking. The setting is atmospheric but also wide-open. And a good game requires an interesting locale.

Mechanically, the cyphers are central to the game. They provide most of the weird feel (so I think we’re going to see a lot of new ones, especially from folks who like a lot more weird in their games) as well as the best options for lateral thinking and planning.

But beyond them, the rules are not terribly interesting in-and-of-themselves. They do their job and then get out of the way. So if you’re used to running games where manipulating the rules largely is the game (3e and 4e, I am so looking at you), you’re likely to find Numenera a little flat there. Hell, I found Numenera a little flat there, and I tend to run Labyrinth Lord.

Mr. Cook calls Numenera a game about exploration. I think he’s right, but he certainly doesn’t mean it the way old-school D&D is a game about exploration. Numenera isn’t about logistics, encumbrance, or keeping strict time records. It is about solving problems through clever use of one-shot wonders, powers, and the environment.

And that means your Numenera game will largely rise or fall on the quality of your adventures. Interesting places with intriguing, open-ended challenges that give your players lots of room to play should be the order of the day. Think more Myst’s intellectual playgrounds and less of tactical challenges, linear stories, or even the dependable ol’ five room dungeon. A good Numenera location, whether it be an ancient ruin, a skyship, or a royal court, needs to be full of opportunities for players to be clever and challenges that encourage them to be so.

Yeah, ok, that’s rather vague, and I’m still teasing out just what that means in terms of location design, though at this point I’m pretty sure you should be designing locations more than adventures.