Perhaps the element that most drew me to this game was its unique setting. Here's how Cook describes it, in his own words:
The Ninth World is the setting for my new Numenera roleplaying game. I’ve described it as a far future post-apocalyptic setting. Basically, it’s the backdrop of a young civilization that has grown up amid the ruins of very old, very advanced civilizations. A billion years from now, we are long gone, as are the civilizations that evolve and rise (and fall… or leave… or transcend) after us. And the one after them. A billion years is a long, long time...
In the time of the Ninth World, the land masses of the planet have returned to form a vast supercontinent surrounded by seemingly endless seas with extremely dangerous storms. ... “Impossible” landscapes are a normal part of the Ninth World’s topography. Islands of crystal float in the sky. Inverted mountains rise up above plains of broken glass. Abandoned structures the size of kingdoms stretch across distances so great that they affect the weather. Massive machines, some still active, churn and hum.
Along the southeastern coast lies The Steadfast, a collection of kingdoms and principalities with little in common except for a unifying religion. ... Outside the bounds of The Steadfast...lies The Beyond, a vast wilderness punctuated by very occasional, very isolated communities. Around these claves, small villages and communities known as aldeia have arisen. Each clave has discovered and mastered various bits of numenera, giving every aldeia a distinct identity. ... Because the villages are remote and separated by dangerous distances, trade of these discoveries is occasional and haphazard.
But not every village or tribe in The Beyond has a clave to help guide them amid the dangers of the past. Some of these have discovered the numenera to their peril, unleashing terrible horrors, plagues, or mysteries beyond comprehension. Travelers might find a village where all the residents have been transformed into flesh-eating monstrosities, or another whose populace works as slaves for some machine intelligence left over from an earlier era.
Outside the aldeia and other settlements, the dangers multiply. Amid the ruins of the past lie tribes of vicious abhumans, as likely to kill and eat an explorer as talk to her. Clouds of tiny invisible machines called the Iron Wind scour the wilderness, altering everything they touch. Monstrous predators, ancient death machines, and stranded extraterrestrial or transdimensional beings also all pose a threat in the uncharted reaches of The Beyond. But so too can a careful and capable explorer find awe-inspiring numenera that can accomplish anything one can imagine.
You can read more about this fantastic setting here.
While I certainly don't have space here to give this game a full review, here are some other highlights:
- The rules of Numenera are simple and straightforward, being oriented around story and discovery rather than combat and power growth. While perhaps not genre-breaking, they are certainly unique, easy to use, and adequately explained.
- Character creation is quick and easy, facilitating unique and interesting characters without having to worry about min/maxing to squeeze out every possible advantage.
- There is a massive section on solid general advice on how to run the game for the aspiring GameMaster, focusing not on memorizing rules but on how to cater to the system's strengths.
- There are also detailed, locale-specific setting information along with four distinct adventure modules. These provide enough variety to easily satisfy all sorts of different groups or styles.
- The production values are quite good. I especially appreciate the marginal information on each page, which includes links to specific terms as they are used as well as general advice from the author.
What about you? Have you heard anything about Numenera? Have you played it for yourself? What do you think of the setting? As always, your thoughts are appreciated. Thanks for reading.