Diverging from the review for a moment, today I’m going to describe a Numenera campaign hook and the rough context of it.
I’m taking the original Final Fantasy and tweaking it a bit. The original game was fairly simple in terms of plot; you show up armed with mysterious crystals that are dark, go rescue a princess, fight and adventure your way through pirates, elves, and dwarves until you run into an elemental fiend, whose defeat restores one of the crystals to a shining light. One fiend for each of the classical Greek elements, along with a side trip to harass a dragon king, and then through a gateway to face the avatar of destruction and chaos in hopes of saving the world.
Naturally, this was all delivered in terms of magic. For Numenera, things need to be adjusted. Rather than simply slapping this down somewhere on the face of the Ninth World’s Earth, as an archipelago someplace in the uncharted oceans or in the middle of an inland ocean, I’ll be setting it in a pocket dimension that was bubbled off from that of Earth in one of the prior worlds. It’s a few thousand miles wide, although the horizon suggests it’s far larger than that, and it loops back on itself. It’s sustained by ancient technology which is presently failing, which is the source of the plot – ancient machinery that maintains fertile land, breathable air, habitable temperatures, and the hydrological cycle has begun to malfunction and needs restored from solid-state backups.
Complicating things is that each system has a whole host of defenses, and the malfuctions have been going on for long enough that some of the wildlife has been subjected to mutation and evolution to create strange and unnatural-seeming monsters. There are ‘elves’ and ‘dwarves’ in the form of clades that have maintained some history of the technology that created and continues to support the bubble of reality, but they all have their own problems to be solved. No one really expects any serious trouble, as the world they know has existed for longer than even the oldest memory can recall.
Further complicating things is that an ultraterrestrial has entered the world and found the nexus where the reality bubble itself is maintained; it’s been casually draining power from the entire system and may cause the bubble to fail in a catastrophic fashion. Players will eventually have to confront it, once they have the clues they need on how to reach it, and prevent it from feeding until the bubble collapses and the world is lost in the quantum foam between realities.
Players, in this case, are likely Ninth World explorers who stumble through a momentary cleft in the reality bubble, one caused by the ultraterrestrial’s feeding. Imbued as they are with the powers from their homeland, they’re uniquely suited to handle the task of saving the world in a way that the natives aren’t. In the process, they’ll get the chance to uncover mysteries of the ancient past that are hidden from any other eyes, explore a completely new world, and make choices about the fate of entire civilizations.
Given that there will almost certainly be players familiar with the originating game idea, there are ample ways to change it up; the core of it should be good enough to stand numerous tweaks and adjustments without breaking it. That it already encompasses strange ancient technologies is a bonus from the perspective of Numenera, and it grants an excuse to inject the weird and ancient tech elsewhere.
Because if there’s one thing a Numenera game has to be, it’s weird.