monte cook

My short expedition into Numenera

numenera roles

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.

Chin out.

Numenera, or: how I fell for Monte Cook

Let me start out by saying that I never thought Monte Cook to be the “genius of the RPG industry” many make him out to be. I’m not saying he’s a bad fellow (I never met him, so I can’t judge), I’m just saying that I’ve never really liked anything he wrote. Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition was never my cup of tea, and the way he turned the World of Darkness into a post-apocalyptic setting never really…resonated with my vision of the setting. I admire him for his contribution to the hobby, but I just don’t like his creations even though the vox populi gets all excited when something with his name on it hits the shelves. . Monte Cook is like that bakery down the street that makes those delicious cakes the whole town likes, except for me. Sorry Cook, I’ll take a slice of Wick’s cake.

With that being said, it can be considered quite the achievement of him that his recently published and crowdfunded work Numenera has drawn my attention. Heck, it hasn’t just drawn my attention, it has me tightly in its grip! Characters have been created, and we’ll be started our first adventure in the Ninth World soon. Something about this more serious Gamma World-ish science fantasy setting just seems fascinating and begs you to explore it. The fantastic artwork in the books is very evocative, and the whole setting description just gets me excited to see my players dive into this medieval world build on the ruins of multiple highly advanced societies.

So there, Cook, I fell for one of your creations. Let’s see if I will really eat the entire cake, or just stick with this single slice.