Remember how my last post was about me eating Monte Cook’s cake? Well, I had a taste of it, and I have to admit…it wasn’t really my thing.
To clarify this symbolic talk, let me grant you some exposition. Last night, I dived into Numenera with my friends Dee and Bee. We live far away from each other these days, but fortunately, a combination of Roll20 and Google Hangouts allowed us to give this weird science fantasy setting a try. We decided to play the adventure “The Beale of Boregal” (which is one of the adventures in the core book) with our merry band of adventurers:
- Grott, a mythical glaive who focuses mind over matter. A short, fat, tattooed man who hails from a tribe of “wind-singers” (that was just fluff to give him a monk-ish feeling)
- Nahuel, a swif glaive who fuses flesh and steel. He met Grott while hiding from an Iron Wind.
- Perdita, a strong-willed jack who bears a halo of fire. She likes to talk, ignite things and eat like there’s no tomorrow.
While we all enjoyed our characters and the adventure (no matter how often we strayed from the path intended by it), I have to admit that the flavor of the world was not entirely mine. For starters, the sheer strangeness of this Earth one billion years in the future is really hard to portray at the table. Cook and the authors use a wide array of exotic terms for creatures, places and objects. This is fine for me, but it also increases the time it takes players to buy into the world. Sure, it’s really cool to describe a centipede-like scutimorph or a desert of shimmering red and purple sand, but once I started feeding my players this strangeness, I felt like I had to focus more on portraying a bizarre world than on the actual plot. Maybe I just suck at multitasking, but I’d rather focus my storytelling effort on actually telling a good story than one about fancy fauna and strange vistas.
However, I can’t blame that on the game itself. But then again, I can’t blame a baker for making a cake that just isn’t my thing. What I can say for this piece of cake is that there was still something I liked about it. Numenera’s rules are straight-forward, simple and clear. Character creation is a breeze, and the XP mechanic and GM Intrusions are a nice addition to the game (though I think the term “GM Intrusion” sounds far too negative). However, I just don’t dig the packaging of it all.
So, to stick with the cake metaphor: Cook and his crew have baked a cake that looks far too bizarre for me, tastes far too strange, but whose ingredients are actual pretty solid. Alright, I guess this wonky thing is breaking apart. Let’s just finish the cake before it’s just crumbs.