Review: Numenera Character Option 2, Part IV

Today I’ll be continuing my review by starting in on the new Foci presented in Character Options 2. If you’ve made it this far without being familiar with the system, a Focus is the ‘verb’ part of the character in the Cypher System; a Tough Nano who Needs No Weapons has Needs No Weapons as a Focus, for example.

It looks like we have a total of twenty-five new Foci in the book; some of them are fairly predictable-looking for a Numenera/Cypher System book, like Abides in Crystal and Charges Right In, while a few have a more esoteric vibe to them. Delved Too Deeply and Gazes Into the Abyss are both intriguing-sounding. Let’s have a look at some of these, yeah?

Abides in Crystal is essentially crystal New Age woo packaged into a sleek Numenera shell, and there’s nothing stopping it because the previous eight worlds had all kinds of weirdness going on. You get a few crystals in your starting gear, your esoteries (or other exotic effects) all have a crystalline vibe to them, and the powers are all crystal-themed. Tier 1 lets you store yourself and your gear in a crystal, making it easier for people to smuggle you in and out. You’re insensate while inside it, but you can set pre-determined triggers to release yourself. At Tier 2, you get a Might boost and the ability to activate some Armor. Tier 3 augments Tier 1, allowing you to be inside a crystal without being in stasis, while Tier 4 basically stuffs crystals into your brain to amplify your Intellect pool. Tier 5 gives you another Might boost and some permanent Armor, and Tier 6 lets you teleport via crystals. It’s fun, but not exactly anything really new or amazing. If you want to be a mystic crystal warrior Nano, it might be a good pick – the Might and Armor are good for getting in a fight, and the Intellect can power your esoteries.

Abuses Alchemy is a modular Focus; each Tier offers abilities you can swap between by changing the chemicals you’re dosing yourself with. Tier 1 lets you pick between extra damage on every attack and a boost to both your Might Edge and Might Pool; Tier 2 lets you either deal Speed damage and inflict a penalty on actions to your foe, or acquire training in a Defense of your choice. Tier 3 lets you be trained at Speed Defense and boost your Speed Pool, or become completely immune to mutations and contagions, while Tier 4 gives you either a 5-point ranged attack for free each round or finely examine a creature to gain an asset against it and learn the basic details about it, including obvious weaknesses. Tier 5 gives you either a boost to Intellect and specialization in a sphere of knowledge or the ability to completely ignore any non-damage condition or affliction for a full hour; this can include being mind controlled, paralyzed, or whatever else. Tier 6 is a fitting cap, with either additional Armor and a reactive defense or the ability to simply pass through objects. All in all, I would totally use this Focus for a character; it’s simply amazing how much versatility and flavor it offers.

Charges Right In is pretty much what it says on the box; while it has nothing surprising in it, with initiative boosts and a charging attack that upgrades across tiers, it serves perfectly as the focus of choice for the person who plays the archetypal kick-in-the-door barbarian kind of character. It’s not my cup of coffee, personally, but I know at least one person this would work quite well for.

Delved Too Deeply isn’t quite as interesting as it appeared, alas; I was hoping for some kind of Balrog-style reference, but it’s apparently the result of exploring a past-world ruin and uncovering an exotic form of matter that augments you while making you incredibly light-sensitive at the same time. Tier 1 gives you a boost to your Armor, Might Edge, recovery rolls, and Might Pool, as well as letting you see in the dark. The drawback is that tasks are harder during the day and light literally burns you. Tier 2 lets you fire blasts of “void matter” at enemies, Tier 3 lets you be partly out of phase with the world, and Tier 4 lets you manipulate things at a distance as well as granting you another rather nasty attack that can potentially immobilize foes. Tier 5 lets you amplify an item’s level for a short time before it dissolves and heals you a little, and Tier 6 makes your attacks infect your victims and keep doing damage over time. It’s an interesting focus, just not what I was expecting.

Gazes Into the Abyss is quite interesting; you’re literally a monster, red-fanged and savage, who spends the days trying to be human-ish. At Tier 1 you gain a bump to your Might Pool and Edge, as well as some hefty natural weapons. Tier 2 grants you natural Armor, Tier 3 improves your natural weapons, and Tier 4 adds to you Might and Speed Pools as well as your Speed Edge. Tier 5 bumps up your Speed and Might Pools again, increases your natural armor, and makes your attacks inflict a Speed-damaging poison. Tier 6 turns you into a frenzied storm of attacks, permitting you to make extra attacks during a round for 3 Speed points per attack. While it isn’t as esoteric as I’d been hoping, it might be even more to the taste of the barbarian type of player than Charges Right In is.

All in all, the Foci are interesting and more than a few of them have a fair bit of promise, even if some of the names are a bit misleading. I’ll leave the others for you to explore, but they’re certainly worth investigation, and fit relatively well with the exotic strangeness of Numenera.

Next time I’ll be dipping into the chapter on new organizations, so be sure to check back then!

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Review: Numenera Character Option 2, Part IV

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