Today I’ll be continuing my review of the newest sourcebook for Numenera, Character Options 2. Today I’m continuing through the Descriptors section of the book, picking up at location-based Descriptors. I apologize in advance, as there’s one where I may rant just a tad.
The location-based Descriptors come in two flavors – ones related to specific places in the Ninth World, drawn primarily from the Ninth World Guidebook, and ones that are generic in nature to allow you to be from a particular type of place without it being one of the familiar locales.
The Desert-Dwelling descriptor is definitely a situational one; if you’re going to be in arid regions or facing off against challenges where food and water are scarce and the environment is uncomfortably hot, you might want to consider it. In addition to a Might boost to represent your hardiness (an aside: is this really the only way you can reliably represent hardiness in something as versatile as the Cypher System? Really?), you double the time you can go without food and water, are trained in resisting the heat (and have +2 armor against heat-based damage), and are trained at finding food and water. On the other hand, you have inabilities for tasks involving resisting cold-based damage, swimming, and handling watercraft.
Want to be a Gaian trying to convince the people of the Steadfast of the cliche danger lurking elsewhere in the Ninth World, or just a cool beastmaster kind of character? The book has you covered; being a Gaian is a fairly nice deal, granting a boost to both Intellect and Speed, as well as giving you training at interacting with, caring for, and training animals. There are no inabilities here; as long as you’re interested in what it offers it’s a good pick. I wouldn’t mind picking it, although the quasi-hippie vibe of the Gaians could get old quickly if you’re not careful to flesh the character out.
And now, the Vralkan Descriptor. Here we go. See, there’s always one race in a RPG that fills the role of That One Horribly Wicked Group. Some, like the drow of D&D and the dark elves of Everquest, are simple over-the-top evil for the sake of evil. Some, like the Vralkans, have some thought and justification put into them. Unfortunately, they’re still the One Horribly Wicked Group. Vralkans, if you don’t have the Ninth World Guidebook, live in a phenomenally inhospitable land, have a savage warrior culture, and are – of course – looking to invade the soft and pleasant lands of the Steadfast. I appreciate that MCG made a point of making it clear that workers are well-treated because you need the workers well-fed and healthy to do their jobs properly, and in the hands of a good player or an excellent GM they could see use. Most people, however, are going to go straight for either Drizzt Do’Urden or else barbarian Nazis. Vralkans get a Might bonus, deal extra damage when fighting wounded foes, are trained at finding food and water, and have an inability for all pleasant social interactions. We’re mostly missing some savage warcry ability here, really.
Okay, moving on. Racial Descriptors! These are ways to play particularly nonhuman characters. You’d think the Extraterrestrial and Ultraterrestrial ones would be here, but they’re not.
Artificially Intelligent is somewhat appealing to me; the idea of playing a sapient machine is something that speaks to me as a transhumanist. It’s a loaded Descriptor, too – you gain a bonus to all three pools and a point of Armor, but Recovery checks for resting only affect your Intellect pool. You’re immune to things that target organic creatures and items, but you’re vulnerable to things that affect inorganic items, including things that disrupt other machines. All positive social interactions are made two steps harder due to how strange you are and how hard it is for you to relate to squishy sacks of water and carbon.
Orrmyl are nteresting; ultraterrestrial in origin, they all look like the same human woman, even though they all have different minds. The have no sense of sight, but have a cloud of particles around them that permit them total sensory awareness within a short range. They have a fair boost to the Intellect pool, they’re trained at blending in with humans and crowds, and they can see absolutely perfectly out to short range while being completely blind beyond that point. They also don’t tend to get along with one another and prefer the company of humans; you could imprint any number of goals and attitudes on these creatures, particularly since there’s no promise that they’ll have a gender identity at all, much less one matching their appearance as a human woman. Want to explore that notion a bit, play an Orrmyl. Just try to be considerate if you have a transgender or non-binary player at the table with you, and don’t be a jerk, okay?
While some of the other Descriptors certainly look fun, this is a look at the highlights, aside from my issue with the Vralkans. Come back next time as I head over into the chapter on the new Foci!