Making it Matter in Numenera, Part III


Previously we talked about making what happens in your game matter to your players by making things personal, and then we talked about letting your players tell you what’s important and how to use the old reoccurring mastermind trick.

This time we’ll talk about factions. Groups of people who have their own agendas and have plots and plans in motion.

Factions are useful in a lot of ways.

World Building and Continuity

For one thing factions help with building the world in your players minds and with continuity. If your players keep bumping into The University of Doors, The Order of Truth, the Convergence, and other factions, your version of the Ninth World comes alive with the give and take of organizations and movements bigger than the adventure you are running. It’s a big world out there, and the PCs aren’t the only movers and shakers in it.

Anchoring PCs to the world

Factions can create ties to player characters. If a glaive in your party has a backstory of being in an order of bodyguards to Aeon Priests, that player is just begging you to run adventures that include the Order of Truth. If not, you can invite them into such an organization after an impressive performance that aligns them to the order. Give them a badge or amulet that shows they belong.

En Garde

Factions are great adversaries. The party may have defeated one plot from the Convergence, but the Convergence can always be relied to up the ante next time. The organization itself become the reoccurring villain.

The Amber Papacy

The biggest faction in the Ninth World are the Aeon Priests and their Order of Truth. They can be a big help to the characters, and may act as patrons. But what of the ties between the Order of Truth and the Angulan Knights? How does that sit with a mutant character? Are there factions within the Order of Truth who support mutant rights? Factions within factions?

king and queenFor the Queen!

The Steadfast is full of monarchies, all of which contain factions. Are the PCs acting for the Queen of Navarene? One of her enemies?

Factions with Faces

Players won’t react strongly to abstract factions. A faction needs a face. Use NPCs that you roleplay to represent the faction. For examples, check out the People of Renown at the back of MCG’s The Ninth World Bestiary. What if Magistrix Nelgadara tries to recruit a player character into the Convergence? If the PC refuses to go along, will the Magistrix use him as a double agent? And what if you then throw the players into a Convergence scheme, such the Three Sanctums adventure from the core book?

Watch your players. If they react strongly to a faction, think of ways to bring it into your adventures. If the faction matters to them, then the adventure with that faction will matter to them.

Good gaming!

See Also:

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.

A Terrible Journey Part II

Hidden Naresh2See Part I here.

Are you paying attention apprentices?

Let the gatekeeper do her work. She will insert an egg shaped object that will graft onto your spine. Do not fight this, the egg is necessary.

At this point she will open the black door. Enter the door without a word. Walk a hundred paces and keep your hands in front of your face. Yes, they will be cut, but better them than your face. You will feel a fetid breeze from your left. Turn right and find the latch. Pull the latch and fall into the chute.

Lie on your back as you slide in total darkness. Fold your arms across your chest and ignore the voices. Especially your own.

The end of this trial is almost over. You will drop down into a terrible pit and the egg will spout dragonfly wings from your back. Up, you must fly toward the violet cavern.

After this, there are more trials. Could it be any more difficult to find your way to the world below? To bask in the light of the white sun?

I myself have searched for easier ways down. We combed the Westwood of Navarene, the Plains of Kataru, and outside the city of Uxphon, in the Black Riage. No luck.

For now, class dismissed. I fear even speaking about Hidden Naresh stresses my old mind.

– Charis Kos, Aeon Priest

A Terrible Journey — Part I

Hidden NareshOrder of Truth apprentices, pay attention. Today I will share a secret. How does one travel to the lands of the Sun Below? It’s not pretty, not safe, and not sane.

For over a century, the Order has used a most difficult path, through the fell city of Hidden Naresh. Our scholars have found dozens of references to other entrances, but when we look for them, we find nothing. Take heed and you will know why the Order keeps seeking for other portals to the lands below our feet.

In Hidden Naresh the world is torn and reality drips away. There is nothing for a mind to hold onto. An Aeon Priest will forget their own name, their purpose, and all that came before entering the city. One must hold on. A talisman is a necessity. Hold tight and stay focused.

Then, under the Temple of a Thousand Terrors, enter the lowest basement and find the red door. Not the blood door, but the door made out of red flesh. Enter this door and step into the pit.

Your fall will be gentled by a thousand clinging tendrils. Each will make an offer that you must not acknowledge. Do not give in. Keep falling, down, down, down, until you meet the gatekeeper.

Do not stare at her eyeless face. She will know if you do. Face away, but direct your speech to her. Ask for passage. She will open your back. Be glad you cannot see.

— Charis Kos, Aeon Priest

Continue to Part II