Numenera (2013)

OK, this week is one of those exercises in me looking at a game that doesn’t appeal to me for reasons I can’t quite express, and then you try to educate me as to its charms. The game in question is Numenera, the first iteration from 2013, before Cypher System really becomes Cypher System.

So, Numenera is a very light mechanical RPG, using a D20 for resolution. Only the players roll; they’re trying to beat values on a sliding difficulty ladder that reminds me vaguely of Fate. Characters are defined through key words (though not, like, totally open ended keywords as in HeroQuest, there are constraints and those build in a lot of structure that makes me feel comfortable). Magic items are little doo-dads that have a bunch of unique minor effects, so they have a lot of application, feel special and can interact with each other in lots of ways (good and bad). It’s a way more welcoming and usable system than I expected (the last Monte Cook game I read was Invisible Sun, which is neither).

The game is arranged around exploration and discovering things to wonder at—the world has a deep history, full of lost technology, weird magic, strange civilizations. Page after page after page of stuff that I feel should thrill me (I love the fact that there is no experience rewards for combat and that damage is basically static). Especially since I love Cook’s Planescape work and at enjoy the majority of his other D&D material I’ve read. And I like worlds with similar histories, like Talislanta or Jorune. But for some reason, Numenera leaves me under-wondered. The same is true of the videogames (and Planescape Torment was for a long time my all-time favorite).

So what’s my malfunction? What am I missing?

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