Sunday, 19 January 2014

Numenera: the Beale of Boregal, part one

As I've mentioned a couple of times before, a few months back Arthur ran us a playtest game of Numenera. I did record the session, but it was plagued by technical problems and with one thing and another it's taken a while to beat into some kind of shape. About two-thirds of the recording was done on a laptop built-in mic rather than the dedicated recorder I normally use, and it makes a noticeable difference. I'm putting it out there, and it is listenable (I always test podcasts on earphones before release, mostly walking to work beside a busy road) but some parts are a little tricky to catch and there are a couple of sections I had to cut and narrate. I do apologise.

This particular episode is basically spoiler-free as we go through the Numenera character generation process, taking rather longer than we expected. This rest of the series is a colossal mass of spoilers for the starter scenario The Beale of Boregal, and in general our podcasts are not entirely family-friendly, so be aware.

Character Generation

Link to episode 01

Character generation was maybe what really got my attention for Numenera, because the idea of being an Adjective Noun who Verbs is attractively simple. In practice, as so often, it proves to be a little more complicated. To be fair to Numenera, I think it had bad luck here. One thing is that the players had bought into the ANWV scheme quite hard, and were a little thrown by the extra layers of detail. Another is that we were inclined to rush ahead, and I notice that Arthur had to hold us back several times as we started wanting explanations of things we hadn't yet come to. Being quite mechanically-minded as a group, this is a bit of an instinct, but disrupted the flow of character creation and slowed things down.

I haven't actually run it yet, so take this with a pinch of salt, but... my impression is that the way to handle first-time chargen in Numenera is perhaps to pause before opening the books, and to ask people to take it lightly, and just write down the crunchy details of their choices without worrying about what the crunch means at this stage. There are bound to be a couple of things you will want to explain, but pausing to define everything as soon as it appears isn't actually that helpful. Explanations made too early can very easily be more confusing than helpful, so that before too long you're explaining complex mechanics that make much more sense when they actually come up, when all you needed was to pick your hair colour.

There's quite a bit of crunchy details associated with chargen, which does make it more complicated than it initially seems, but most of it doesn't really need explanation at the time, only noting down to be dealt with at a later stage. I suspect that if you took this tack you could probably do first-time chargen, with reading-out of options, in fifteen minutes or so.

The main thing I might do to ease chargen is to attach a one-line explanation to some of the less intuitive Adjectives and Verbs, allowing people to make choices based on general consequences rather than the details. For example, it's not at all obvious that being Sneaky would make you slower or less agile, or that being Clever means you're street-smart rather than learned. This seems particularly important where drawbacks are concerned, given that some Adjectives have drawbacks but not all, and that some drawbacks may be deal-breakers for a character - several Adjectives make you bad at social skills, for example, which can easily clash with a character concept.

No comments:

Post a Comment