Yesterday, we looked at the overview of Numenera as a game and what it offers at the table. Today, we’ll look at how a hypothetical group of players might build their characters for a game set on the fringes between the Steadfast and the Beyond, which essentially mark the known civilized lands and the rumored places on the fringes of civilization, beyond which nothing is truly known.
Our group of hypothetical players consists of Allie, Chris, Jean, and Susan as players, with Pat acting as the GM for the game to be. Pat has already pitched them the location – the town of Guran, which has enough of a write-up in the core book to have some material ready to go, and ample room to expand – and given them copies of the information about the City of the Missing. After flipping through it and the Player’s Guide, they quickly talk about what each of them wants to try out.
Allie wants a character who comes from a mostly civilized land, the sort of person who started off as the idle child of a wealthy family and decided to go ‘experience the world’ on her own. She decides that she likes the unfocused feel that a Jack can have and selects that as her Type, then settles to look over the descriptors and foci to figure out what might work for her concept.
Chris has an idea of a character from a small town in the Beyond where the local nanos and Aeon Priests have managed to tap into a seemingly perpetual dynamo that produces an endless supply of power; as such, electric lighting and heating is common in the settlement, and the locals have learned to adapt the subsidiary devices linked to the massive device. His character is going to be someone who Rides the Lightning, a clever explorer who wants to find more devices to harness and utilize the way his people have.
Jean wants to be the unbreakable vanguard who marches in at the head of the group, shrugging off the dangers of the lost eras of the world and keeping the others safe. She knows she wants to be a Glaive, to maximize her ability to use armor to keep herself safe, and she’s looking at Tough as a descriptor. She has a vague notion of being someone whose early life was spent as a gladiator, learning to fight and survive, and that now she doesn’t feel right unless there’s a risk of danger in her life.
Susan has a full concept ready to go, having read things over in advance. She wants to be a Vengeful Nano who Focuses Mind Over Matter – a person whose past is kept carefully hidden, because she doesn’t want anyone to let her target discover that she’s still alive. As she explains to the others, her character is the result of a research program by a member of the Convergence, the dark mirror of the Order of Truth, where she was experimented on as a young girl, eventually unlocking telekinetic powers in an uncontrollable fury that destroyed the research facility and left her former tormentor assuming that everyone was dead. Now she hunts the Magister responsible for her powers, determined to make him suffer as she suffered. Her latest lead has brought her to Guran, but she’ll follow any lead she finds to the end in order to have her revenge.
Allie suggests that, after looking the characters over, her Jack is Naive and Explores Dark Places – she completely trusts Susan’s nano after the latter was on a caravan ambushed by Convergence servants that Susan’s character tore into in her fury against the Convergence in general, possibly also acquiring the lead that brought her to Guran. Given Allie’s desire to see the world, she decided to tag along with the worldly-seeming and driven nano, oblivious to the dangers she’s being brought into contact with thanks to her sheltered upbringing.
Once Susan agrees, Jean suggests that her Tough Glaive who Masters Defense might have been hired by Allie’s parents, who are less naive than their child, and so where Alliw goes, Jean goes. The idea of a sturdy figure dedicated to getting her naive explorer out of trouble when she trots off the cliff is appealing, and so she enthusiastically agrees to it. Jean’s glaive is less trusting of Susan’s nano than Allie’s character is, but as long as the psychokinetic doesn’t threaten her charge she won’t complain.
Chris has settled on being a Mechanical Nano who Rides the Lightning, the better to represent that his character relies heavily on his understanding of the numenera acquired in his hometown. Reliant on the machinery he wields and the secrets he’s learned to understand, he decides that he met the others during the same caravan, and the clearly uncanny nature of Susan’s abilities and her crusade against a mysterious organization that might hold more knowledge for him to plunder is too tempting to resist.
Susan, with the first fully developed character, is already well along in working out the rest of her characters; she’s trained in tasks that involve intimidation, threats, or inflicting pain by torture, all of which her character has done in hunting her target. Being trained in finding and following tracks falls into the same group of utility. She’s become something of a shadowy terror for the Convergence since gaining her freedom from them, hunting them down and leaving no survivors. Being trained in Speed defense adds to her hunter-killer vibe, and she notes that she needs to select a bonus medium weapon – one that she plans to have be a slashing weapon. Focusing Mind Over Matter at Tier 1 means she can deflect attacks with her mind, spending an Intellect point to make herself go from trained to specialized in her Speed Defense for ten minutes at a time.
She looks at her type, the Nano, and spends two points in Speed and four in Intellect, leaving her with 7 Might, 11 Speed, and 16 Intellect; she’s not physically powerful, but she’s fast and her mind is powerful enough to destroy her foes. She notes down that she’s considered trained with the numenera and that she’s practiced with light weapons, then moves on to her chosen abilities. It isn’t much of a choice; Onslaught matches her hostile view on the world, letting her strike things with a powerful bludgeoning force, while Push is a rough shove with no clear source, augmenting her intimidating aspect. She writes down that she has a light slashing weapon (a long, sharp knife), a book on the numenera (scavenged from the wreckage), and a set of clothing that includes a well-made hooded cloak.
Chris starts off from his Type, feeding three points to his Might, one to his Speed, and two to his Intellect, bringing himself up to 10 on Might and Speed and 14 for his Intellect. He picks Onslaught and Ward as his starting abilities, knowing that his Focus will give them both an electrical aspect – the Onslaught will look like a lash of lightning from the gauntlets that make part of his outfit, and the Ward will be a bubble of electromagnetic force that traps bits of metal and forms a shield of sorts around him. He selects a light piercing weapon as his starting weapon – a stabbing blade, highly conductive – and describes his outfit as having numerous bits and pieces of machinery woven into the rough cloth.
His Mechanical descriptor gives him an extra 2 Intellect, bringing him up to 16, and causes his training in the numenera to become specialized – he’s spent plenty of time studying how his devices work and can be modified, unlike Susan’s character. With it comes an ability to sense whether or not the devices around him are active – with a minute of study he can determine whether or not the world has active machinery or not, and he gets the Hedge Magic ability for free; the numerous small things built into his clothing serve to explain his ability to do so. He also, unfortunately for him, has an otherworldly air around him from all the small things on his person constantly emanating a subtle field of static, making charm, deception, and persuasion tasks harder for him by a step. He notes down that the descriptor gives him an extra oddity, and moves on to his focus. He writes down his sack of batteries and power cells, then adds his two abilities – Shock, which allows him to zap things with his hands or electrify his condutive blade, and Charge, which allows him to fuel devices to reactivate them. With those written down, he just needs his starting cyphers and oddities.
Jean has a Tough Glaive who Masters Defense, and she chooses to go straight along the description. Tough grants her +1 Armor, giving her a perpetual 1 Armor no matter what, and a +1 on her recovery rolls, letting her heal 1D6+2 points during each recovery action she takes. She notes that she’s trained in Might Defense, meaning she’s better at simply toughing out damage, and adds a light bashing weapon to her inventory – a length of metal crudely weighted into a light mace. As a glaive, she dumps five points into her Might Pool and one into her Intellect, giving her a starting score of 16 Might, 11 Speed, and 8 Intellect. As a glaive, she’s also practiced in armor, reducing the cost of wearing it and the speed pool penalty for it by two each, and she’s trained with any weapon she cares to wield, taking no penalties in using any of it.
She chooses jumping as her physical skill, taking it to indicate that her character would leap onto enemies while fighting in the arena, trusting her superior durability to see her through to the other side. She selects a medium piercing weapon – a shortspear that she decides will be made of a translucent plastic as hard as metal – and a medium bashing weapon – a warhammer made of stronglass, medium armor, and adds in the explorer’s pack to her gear, then moves on the her abilities; Thrust, to make better use of her primary weapon, and Bash, so that her warhammer and the backup light mace are more useful. Lastly comes her focus, Masters Defense; she writes down her shield, and the way that she can choose to effectively be trained in Speed Defense if she takes a penalty to her attack rolls on any given round. That leaves only her cyphers and oddity to worry about.
Lastly, Allie has her Naive Jack who Explores Dark Places. She chooses to work out from her Type, starting with the Jack’s ability pools. She puts all six points into her Speed, leaving her with a Might and Intellect of 10 but a Speed of 16 – she’s nimble and quick, relying on her agility to get her out of trouble when Jean can’t rescue her. She notes that she’s practiced with both light and medium weapons, selects visual perception as her trained skill of choice, and notes that by default hearing perception is her flex skill unless changed. She writes down a rapier – a medium piercing weapon – and a hunting knife – a light slashing weapon – as her starting weapon choices, noting that both are decorated a bit because they were gifts from her family when she set off into the world. Her explorer’s pack and light tools get written down with these before she heads to her ability choices; she chooses Hedge Magic to represent all the knick-knacks she’s collected since leaving her home, each one a prize to her even if others see them mostly as junk, and chooses to be considered trained in Speed Defense, classifying it as a preternatural level of luck on her part.
Naive gives her a 1D6+2 recovery roll, makes her trained in Intellect defense and resisting temptation, and makes her trained in all perception tasks – effectively specializing her in visual perception and, when her flex skill is set to it, hearing. She marks down her inability to see through deception or determine hidden motives, and moves on to her focus. Since she already has an explorer’s pack, she adds an extra 50′ of rope, two more days of food, and an extra pair of minor glowglobes to her inventory. She notes that she’s trained in searching, listening, climbing, balancing, and jumping, and decides to change her default flex skill to running, as she’s now specialized in both seeing and hearing at all times. With that, she’s done with her choices, and ready to get her cyphers and oddities, along with the others.
Next time, we’ll look over at the GM’s side of things, and what Pat is cooking up to challenge this unlikely group of explorers in the blue-lit town of Guran.