The Beale of Boregal
The Ninth World is Earth, a billion years in the future. Civilizations beyond count have fallen into ancient history, leaving behind incomprehensible ruins and artifacts—called numenera—that now litter the world.
Without knowledge of the science and technology that the previous 8 “worlds” created, the people of the Ninth World live a quasi-medieval lifestyle, with fragments of the past worlds woven into their lives and even their clothing. A warrior may wield a sword tipped with an electrically charged alloy; primitive leather armor may hide capsules containing clusters of healing nanorobots.
These devices often misbehave—assuming they are even being used for their original purpose—and if one ever breaks, it is as good as lost, for the knowledge to maintain and repair them is long forgotten.
The Ninth World is dangerous, as well. In the Steadfast, feudal kingdoms vie for power, sometimes in open warfare, sometimes in secrets and intrigue. In the Beyond, past the authority of any recognized government, semi-sentient robots from ancient wars wander, still seeking enemies to vanquish; the offspring of radiation-altered or bio-engineered creatures wander in packs, seeking easy prey; and a cloud of malfunctioning nanomachines called the Iron Wind is borne across the landscape by strong winds, assimilating and reassembling whatever matter it touches into strange, and often dangerous, new forms.
Some effort has been made to begin deciphering the numenera that litter the Ninth World, and uncover the secrets of past civilizations. The Order of Truth, founded by High Father Calaval about 400 years ago, venerates intellect and understanding; . Members of the order, called Aeon Priests, seek fragments of the science and technology underlying the numenera in an effort to restore the glories of ancient empires.
Our adventure takes place near the Black Riage, an enormous mountain range separating the Steadfast from the Beyond.
Characters are made up of three main aspects: a descriptor, type, and focus. These three things form a statement that describes the character: “a [descriptor] [type] who [focus]”.
Character types are glaives, nanos, and jacks. Glaives are the warriors of the Ninth World, focusing on either strength or agility; nanos harness the numenera to perform feats that look like magic to the uninitiated. Jacks are explorers and adventurers, jacks of all trades, more flexible than either glaives or nanos.
Descriptors like “Learned”, “Tough”, or “Stealthy” customize your character further, adding to starting skills and abilities.
Focuses are where things really open up, with options like “exists partially out of phase” and “talks to machines.” These add a variety of attributes to your character, and open up additional options at higher levels.
While some descriptors and focuses may seem tailor made for a specific character type—like a “tough glaive who masters defense”—there are no restrictions on which you can choose.
Use these as inspiration or starting points for your own characters. There’s also a character sheet PDF here: Character Sheet and (unofficial) character builder apps: http://www.prime-junta.net/numenera/ and http://darkliquid.co.uk/playground/numenera/.
Everything you attempt has a difficulty level, from 0 to 10, that determines how high you must roll (on a d20) to succeed. The target number is 3x the difficulty level, so a level 5 task requires a roll of 15 or higher to succeed. As a result anything level 7 or above would be impossible, except—
Character skills, assets, and other advantages modify the difficulty level in your favor. Lying to a level 7 character would normally be a level 7 task; being trained in deception makes it a level 6 task (for you). Being specialized (an additional level of training) reduces it to level 5. Assets and effort (see stat pools, below) do the same. With a powerful enough combination of assets, skills and effort you can reduce even a level 10 task to a feasible level.
There are three stat pools: Might, Speed, and Intellect. These don’t work like ability scores, where a higher Might makes you better at everything that uses it; instead, they’re used as points you can spend (regained through resting) to perform related actions. They also act as your character’s hit points; any damage you take comes from one of these pools, usually Might. Once a single pool runs out, you are Impaired; if two pools run out, you are Debilitated; if all three run out, you are Dead. There are no death saving throws. You’re just dead.
Might actions are those requiring strength or constitution, including most melee attacks. Speed corresponds to agility, dexterity and precision; some melee attacks can use this, all ranged attacks do. Intellect is used for actions involving intelligence, perception or social interaction.
Whenever you perform an action, you can choose to spend Effort on it. Applying a single level of effort costs 3 points from the relevant pool, and reduces the difficulty of the action by 1. Each stat also has a level of Edge. Characters usually start with 1-2 points of Edge to assign to whichever stats they want. Edge reduces the cost of anything that uses that stat, including Effort; so if you perform an action that uses Might, and you have a Might Edge of 1, applying a level of Effort only costs 2 instead of 3.
Players always roll in Numenera, even for creatures. If you’re attacking something, you roll to try and hit it; if you’re being attacked, you roll to dodge or block the attack. In some cases, you will know the difficulty level you’re rolling against—like jumping across a chasm, where you can clearly see how wide it is. In others, only the GM will know—for example, attempting to detect whether an NPC is lying to you.
Cyphers & Artifacts
Cyphers and artifacts (and oddities) are pieces of technology left over from previous civilizations. They are rarely being used for their original purpose, which often isn’t even known; a device used as a bomb might have actually been a power source for something.
Cyphers can only be used once, and are usually destroyed or consumed in the use. They are found fairly commonly, though carrying too many of them can be dangerous; they are often unstable, and may interact in unpredictable ways, misbehaving when in close contact (sometimes catastrophically).
Artifacts are much rarer, and can be used repeatedly, though they will also eventually be exhausted.
Oddities are fairly common, but largely useless (though a creative player might be able to put one to use).
Cyphers and artifacts must be identified in order to use them properly, since their purpose is not always obvious. They can be used without first identifying them, however. This may have…interesting results, and is not generally recommended.