Today I’ll talk a little bit about a common issue with advancement in the Cypher System. I also review When Worlds Collide, the conversion guide for Numenera and The Strange; Sir Arthour’s Guide to the Numenera; and Into the Violet Vale, the Numenera adventure I ran at Gen Con.
Under the Lens
The Other Options rears its head again.
Do the other options for character advancement replace the skill advancement or any of the four advancements?
Players can also spend 4 xp to purchase other options in lieu of gaining a new skill (Numenera corebook, page 24).
Players can also spend 4 xp to purchase other special options. Selecting any of these options counts as purchasing one of the four steps necessary to advance to the next tier (Numenera corebook, page 112).
There are unfortunately a few editorial errors in the book. The section on Experience in Chapter 8 omits the statement “in lieu of gaining a new skill”. In cases like these, I go with the more descriptive/restrictive wording and assume the more general wording is an editorial oversight. This is unfortunate because one would assume the material in chapter 8 would/should be the most descriptive.
This error (along with most of the others) are unfortunately perpetuated in The Strange corebook (copy+paste can bite you in the ass).
Since the corebook is basically contradicting itself, you can, as GM, choose either option, but I try to do what I think the writers intended, and that’s why I go with the more detailed/descriptive/restrictive entry.
Also, someone from MCG (I don’t remember who or where) said in the past that the other options were meant to replace the skill advancement. Letting your players replace the other advancements (effort, edge, pool) isn’t advised because it will mess with how the characters’ abilities scale through the game.
Wouldn't an official errata be nice?
When Worlds Collide
Sir Arthour's Guide to the Numenera
Much faster shipping
Into the Violet Vale
Good example of the weird of the game.
If the issues I point out later don’t cause problems, it will likely leave the players wanting more, as it drops them in the middle of a story that isn’t resolved by the adventure (this could also be a bad thing, depending on player and GM perspective).
PCs get to use a variety of mechanics, including combat, social interaction, and investigation.
The Bad: Some issues though.
Don’t be fooled into thinking this isn’t railroady, it very much is. Depending on your players, you could be dealing with some real frustration.
Why have tier 2 characters for an intro adventure?
The NPCs are very unlikable. This may or may not be a bad thing.
The Pale Stalker is extremely underpowered. In every game I ran, it was almost dead after 1 or 2 rounds, the first time the PCs encountered it. Some ideas (don’t do all these!):
- Increase Speed Defense to 6
- Give it the ability to attack more than one PC per round (this is my first pick).
- Give it more Armor.
- Using the advancement given for it doesn’t make much difference.
The adventure is too short. If you want to fill 4 hours (even with explaining the system), you’ll need to add quite a bit to it, at least 1 or 2 encounters.
No player agency. An NPC advises the PCs to “set a trap”, but this is pretty stupid advice as due to the nature of the veil, it’s impossible to do unless PCs want to wait day (weeks, months) for the stalker to just appear randomly.
The teleporting takes the PCs north overall until they reach the tower. Yes, in Numenera you don’t have to explain everything, but without an explanation, this just seems like contrived railroading, which it is.
There’s no real discovery in the Vale as written.
If you want to do this adventure, spend some time with it and redo it.
Maybe make the teleporting not random so it’s something the PCs can figure out and use to their advantage (yes this removes the contrived need for Lady Weiss to help them out).
Enchance the Pale Stalker.
Focus on the tower. Get the PCs there early and make the adventure about exploring the tower. Put some numenera in there to discover. Have the PCs learn to use the transportation device themselves, instead of being pulled by the ear through the adventure by the Vale and NPCs. This would also make the adventure more “Numenera” which should be what we’re after.
Retool the adventure for tier 1 and use tier 1 pre-gens.
The Bottom Line
This adventure can work if you give it some love and fix some or all of the issues I pointed out. Depending how you run it, it can be fun as written, but you’ve got to be careful.
As far as an adventure to introduce players to Numenera, I don’t think this is a great one. I think Shadewalker, The Nightmare Switch, or The Hidden Price are all better introductions; Vortex or The Beale of Boregal if you’re not limited to 4 hours).
You’ll have to make your own decision. I was able to present it in a way that the players were ok with it, but it took some finagling. I don’t think I would personally enjoy this adventure as a player.
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