Numenera GM Intrusions: Creatures

Art by Justin Wyatt

One of the great things about Numenera, is how easy it is to make a new creature on the fly. Here goes:

“A human-sized blob with hanging tendrils (5).”

Done. The GM knows it’s a difficulty 5 to dodge the blob, hit the blob, or if the blob is intelligent, sway the blob to the PC’s point of view. If the blob gets mad and hits someone, they take 5 points of damage. The blob has 5 * 3 = 15 hit points. All from the number 5.

But take a look at the creatures in the core book or the Ninth World Bestiary. It’s OK to add all sorts of individual quirks to a creature. Best of all, you can add a creature specific GM Intrusion, just like in the books.

Art by Reece Ambrose

When I’m designing new creatures for an adventure like The Sun Below: City on the Edge, I always add a GM Intrusion. But why? Why would you use one in game?

Ever forget to give every player a GM Intrusion? Forget no more. If you have a combat, open with one. That gets the players’ attention and signals the situation is going to be intense. Have 4 players, and you think you’ll be running 2 combats this session? Throw 2 GM Intrusions into each combat. Ta-da! You’ve met your quota.

And every time your players roll a 1, you know what to do.

Of course there are many non-combat GM intrusions that are just as fun, but I’ll talk about those another time.

Here are my rules of thumb when designing a creature GM Intrusion. These are just mine. You will have your own, but you know, sharing is caring.

    • In other games, creatures often get special powers that they use only sometimes. A dragon’s breath, extra damage if they roll certain numbers, when they reach half health, and so on. A GM Intrusion is the Numeneraish way to give those powers.
    • Make it flow from the creature’s normal abilities. Got a creature with psychic powers? They can use Mind Control as a GM Intrusion. Are they giant size? They can stomp on a PC’s head.
    • Make it powerful, but tied to the creatures’s level. A level 3 creature probably should probably not pop a death ray that drops a character 2 steps down the damage track. I often go with either an extra attack at 2+ levels over the creatures level for a ton of damage, or an automatic hit for half a ton.
    • You don’t have to “hit” to have an effect. If the player spends a lot of effort to avoid the effect, they are down points, and deserve the benefit.
    • As your players go up tiers, they get free effort from edge, so don’t be shy about bumping the difficulty to avoid the effect.
    • If it’s a high level creature to begin with, it’s great to have a GM Intrusion that drops a character down a step on the damage track. Other fun effects are dazed, stunned, and knocked off a cliff. Into a sea of lava. With spikes.
    • I stick to single target effects. Why? If I want to pass out GM Intrusion XP, single target keeps it simple. Yes, if the player rolls a 1 it might be fun to pop a big area of effect hurt on the players, but creature powers don’t lend themselves well to group GM Intrusions for XP.
    • I like to add a line I can use to describe how it feels.

You teleport into the flames and feel the searing hot bladed hands of the automaton dig deep into your body. Your flesh sizzles like meat on a spit.

Next are ideas for social GM Intrusions.

Numeneraish and Numeneraocity

Like many of you, I’ve played a ton of different role playing games. I find it easy to make new stuff up.

What I’m learning now is how to make stuff up Numenera Style.

Art by Reece Ambrose
Art by Reece Ambrose

It’s all about the KISS: Keep It Simple Stupid. Numenera has simple clean rules. A Numenera adventure should follow suit. Over and over in the editing phase of The Sun Below: City on the Edge, I find myself simplifying. I don’t have to create a simulation. I just have to make it fun to play. And fun to GM.

For example, I have a race of blood sucking plant people, the slithik. I have different kinds of slithiks. Do I need so many? No, cut. They all have two attacks a round, one melee, one ranged. Does that make sense? No, cut. The top leader can have two ranged a round, that works.

Sometimes its a matter of making new rules feel Numeneraish. Is that a word? Of course it’s a word. Or will be in 1 billion years. 🙂

I created an artifact where I wanted it to have special effects, but not every time. I could say if you hit with a natural even number, then “tada!” the effect goes off. But that doesn’t feel very Numeneraish. What does feel Numeneraish? Ah, if you hit with a natural 17+, then it goes off. Numenera players are already used to cool stuff happening when they roll natural 17s or better.

And so on. Got to get my Numeneraocity on.

The Sun Below: City on the Edge — Cover Art

Here it is, the adventure cover by Reece Ambrose. We see Princess Duophrene gritting her teeth above a plant-like slithik and a purple dh’lann, all behind a floating stone head of a Praithian.

In the background is Urbamorr, the City on the Edge. It’s unlikely that the city, or your player characters, will survive the adventure unchanged. Will they survive at all?


Dh’lann — Humans of The Sun Below.

Art by Reece Ambrose

Asking a dh’lann if they are a man or a woman will give you at best a temporary answer. They spend most of their time as neither, or as potentially one or the other. Then, once a moon (and yes, there is a Moon Below), they change and transition into a gender. They don’t know which gender ahead of time, and a parent might be a father of one child and mother of another.

While this makes their family structures interesting, dh’lann are as human as you or I. More so, perhaps. I have heard rumors of a mental power they share, but they will not speak of this openly.

In any case they are often receptive to the Truth, and our order has had an even greater impact on them then on the alien slithik. If only we had a secure way for the dh’lann to travel to the surface of the Ninth World, I believe we would have dh’lann training as Aeon Priests in no time.

– Charis Kos, Aeon Priest

More information on dh’lann will be found in the upcoming adventure: The Sun Below: City on the Edge.

Reece Ambrose is the Lead Artist for The Sun Below: City on the Edge, and his work can be found in many other games, including The Strange™, from Monte Cook Games.

I changed the name from flann after I got feedback from the gaming community that they sounded like custard.