Maybe you’ve heard about this Numenera game, roleplaying 1 billion years in the future, but where do you start, what do you need?
First of all, Numenera is a roleplaying game. You need a few friends. One of you will be the Games Master (GM), the others will be the players. I suggest at least two, preferable three players. I like five players, but some people prefer less.
OK, you have your friends, what else? The GM needs the core book. The players need dice (they can share). What kind of dice? d100 (percentile dice), d20 (twenty sided dice) and d6 (six siders, aka normal dice). If you’re experienced in other roleplaying games, you probably have the dice. Your local hobby shop probably has lots of dice (and the core book as well), or if you don’t have a good game store near you, the internet is your friend.
If you are an experienced GM, most of the published adventures are good for beginning player characters. If you’re already good at improvising, read through the four adventures in the back of the core book just to get an idea of the system. If you want an easy introduction to GMing Numenera, start with The Beale of Boregal in the core book. It was written to teach the rules as you go.
In Stealing the Escalation Die for Numenera, about stealing the escalation die mechanic from 13th Age for use in Numenera games, we talked about using the escalation die as a way to speed up long combats. You may have noticed the line “Monsters and NPCs do not add the escalation die bonus to their attacks.”
Which is the 13th Age general rule. However, in 13th Age, some monsters do use the escalation die. Which monsters? Why the ones the players least want to see using the escalation die! Dragons. Demons. Other big fat boss monsters.
Many of these monsters have special attacks that only go off based on the escalation die. For example the Balor (AKA the Balrog) often gets to do a large amount of extra damage, multiplied by the number on the escalation die. 13th Age PCs really want to take down a Balor fast. Or run away.
So here’s one suggestion: When the escalation die is 3, and then again at 6, use a GM Intrusion when the PCs are facing a fearsome opponent.
Now I like to start fights with a GM Intrusion, and three GMIs in one fight feels a little excessive, so if I start off with one, I give the PCs a second GM Intrusion when the escalation die hits 4. Again, for fearsome opponents only, gazers need not apply.
Maybe an extra GM Intrusion is not enough to strike fear into the party. I like to add the escalation die to the damage a fearsome creature does. The higher the escalation die value, the more important it is to dodge the next blow.
So what’s a fearsome opponent? You could set it relative to the party, say any creature 3 or more levels higher than the maximum tier in the group. Or you could pick a level. Or decide on a creature by creature basis.
I like scaling with the party. When characters advance in tiers, the creatures that gave them such problems at early levels are now outmatched by the PCs awesome skills. At the same time, I think any 8th level creature is pretty awesome, so when my PCs hit 6th tier, I’ll still let the 8th level creatures use the escalation die. Dark Fathoms define fearsome.
So here it is, how I like to use the escalation die for the good guys. I mean those terrible opponents battling my sainted player characters:
Creatures who are 3 or more levels higher than the highest tier in the party are fearsome. 8+ level creatures are fearsome. Fearsome creatures add the escalation die to their damage and do a GM Intrusion when the escalation die is 0 and 4. 3 and 6 if I forget to start the battle with one.
One of the great things about Numenera is that combats are short and fun. No hour and a half battles that drag on and on. But sometimes, even a Numenera combat can outlast it’s welcome. This can happen when the players consistently roll badly. Or the creature level is too high. This can happen when you have a mix of tiers in the party. What challenges a tier 3 character can frustrate a tier 1. And if the tier 3s keep rolling badly…
How does the escalation die speed combat? Let me quote from the 13th Age SRD:
The escalation die represents a bonus to attacks as the fight goes on.
At the start of the second round, the GM sets the escalation die at 1. Each PC gains a bonus to attack rolls equal to the current value on the escalation die. Each round, the escalation die advances by +1, to a maximum of +6.
Monsters and NPCs do not add the escalation die bonus to their attacks.
Put your biggest d6 out on the table and let everyone add its value to their attack. At 3 and 6 it effectively lowers the difficulty by 1 and 2, but don’t count this as an asset.
Story-wise, as the battle continues, the clever PCs are learning how to fight these creatures. Or the shock of entering combat has faded and their successes in past combats gives them growing confidence. Or they are getting more desperate. Whatever fits the battle at hand.
So when do you do this? You could do it every combat, like 13th Age does. But you don’ t have to. When you notice a combat is taking longer than you want, just put the d6 down, and set it to the correct number. For example, if you’re about to start round 4, set the die to 3 and tell all the players they get to add 3 on all attack rolls, which drops the difficulty of the attack by 1.
If you do use this for all combats, balance the player bonuses by adding an extra point of armor to your creatures. This will result in fewer one round combats as well as fewer four round combats.