- If you are playing a one-off session, the party has no incentive to hoard their XP, and so will use it to reroll or stop your GM Intrusion, so take that into account.
- We rolled no 1s during our game, so no free intrusions this time.
- Combat is fast and quick. By not making it a focus of the game, and by explicitly not paying XP out for combat, you as GM won’t feel the need to make combat pivotal to your session. Sessions don’t lead up to and climax with combat. If the players massacre your monsters, you don’t lose hours of preparation, they just get on with their adventure. Had combat been more of a focus, I might not have let the players talk their way out of the entire adventure by convincing the margr chieftain to release the replacement part.
- This entire adventure played out the way it did entirely because of a lucky combination of 4 random cyphers (semi-random: I vetted the card combinations before handing them out, but only for whether or not I thought it was a cool power or not) as well as Gabriel’s oddity and focus: a pill to let the characters negotiate with the margr, which they could get back after leaving it in town by using an injectable teleporter and a remote tracking device, with a fourth cypher that let them move the Giant Metal Cross around in the air for extra impressiveness. Added to that was a single power wielded by one of the characters, who also happened to be trained in persuasive speech. Very specific combination!
- Don’t fret if the characters break right through one of your obstacles, be it combat or by skipping a huge chunk of the adventure. They’re having fun, you can always throw a spanner in the works using GM intrusion, and eventually the tables will turn against them.
I don’t do preparation, really. Sure, I pre-printed some pretty pictures and read the rules and then the adventure several times, but I suck at preparing for roleplaying games. Generally I have a rough idea of where to go, and build the story from the party’s actions. I rarely, if ever, game from prewritten modules, but this was my first time running a game in this world and with this system. I think it’s the quickest way to get a feel for how the creator of the game thinks a typical adventure should run.
I’ve listed some low-effort/high-value things that I believe will help anyone run a Numenera campaign more easily. This list is tailored to the kind of GM that I embody, the lazy kind who doesn’t like to do prep:
- Prepare a glossary of terms for new players. Things like Aeon Priest, clave, abhuman, margr, synth and aneen. This will allow you to play the game without having to resort to mood-breaking comparisons. Print this out and hand it around the table during character creation, as they’re more likely to read it then than if you email them.
- Prepare a list of names by culture/species so you can quickly pick names for NPCs. I used this for the humans, but also the margr. This is particularly important in Numenera because you need to maintain that flavour. You can’t have a human called George, although a ‘Georg’ (pronounced GAY-org) would be fine.
- Prepare a list of oddities/structures/strange visuals that you can pick out if you need it. Describe the mundane affairs of the town with some of them, just to add flavour – eg. as the party walks past a store, they see multi-coloured balls floating in the air, etc.
- Print out the character sheets on A3 or similar. Our A4/Letter copies were just a touch too small in our opinion.
- Write down a list of GM Intrusions for fumbles (natural 1 on a die), drawing inspiration from the player characters’ foci. eg. if the Exists out of Phase character rolls a 1, her cyphers fall out of her backpack by falling through her clothes, or her foot sinks into the ground and gets stuck, etc. Having 2 or three character-specific GM Intrusions to use provides you with a nice fallback if you can’t think of one off the top of your head. It also helps remind the characters that what makes them special also makes them dangerous.
We had a great time, fitting in an hour of character creation and then four hours of game session with no great time pressure on my part to speed it up or slow it down. The system was simple and intuitive once the characters were built, and the players commented they liked the adventure and character links that the character creation process used to build some party cohesion.
The focus is definitely on narrative play, and there was no rules lawyering (I pointed out afterwards where in the core book it said, ‘you’re wrong’) because the rules aren’t focused on that kind of game play.
Will play again!
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