Numenera Technology Compendium: Sir Arthour’s Guide to the Numenera (2014)

OK, big title on this one: Numenera Technology Compendium: Sir Arthour’s Guide to the Numenera (2014). The subtitle in particular might be difficult to parse if, like me, you came to Numenera thinking that was the name of the world. It isn’t! That’s the Ninth World. Numenera is a catch-all term for all the thingamabobs characters use as equipment—oddities, artifacts and cyphers. They’re the equivalent of D&D’s magic items. I think it is a bold move to name a whole RPG after the magic tech, actually. And, in typical Monte Cook fashion, this book introduce a thousand new ones in addition to the stuff already contained in the core book.

That sounds bigger than it really is. Cyphers are pieces of single use scavenged tech that are defined by keywords. Artifacts are basically the same, but have multiple uses. Oddities are the best—weird bits that have no real purpose other than flavor. They come in a bunch of tables at the very end. I love all of this. It’s like an unholy combination of a GURPS power book and a collection of Mothership-style “what’s in your pocket” tables. I really, really love the way this works to balance special powers in the larger game (no single cypher can ever unbalance play, as it is only a single use) while allowing players to hone in on the sort of the powers they want to specialize in, thus defining their character through their use of tech (which is a bit like the way Gamma World’s progression is really rooted in scavenging better equipment).

I was expecting something like Shadowrun’s Street Samurai Catalog, but instead, I got a tech/equipment system that takes a game with a ton of difficult-to-manage variety like Shadowrun (think a party with a mage, a decker and a street samurai, all managing different game systems) and streamlines the mechanics. The variety is still there, but the crunch is minimized. It’s pretty brilliant!

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