Welcome back, dice fondlers! We’ve left the maids & mansions behind us and have moved on to a different genre entirely. We’re not just in a different genre— we’re going to a new world! Specifically, “The Ninth World”, as featured in the RPG Numenera. We’re going to take the next few weeks to build characters for both the far distant, sciencey-sorcery future of Numenera and the infinite recursive pocket dimensions of The Strange. Both of these games were developed by Monte Cook using the Cypher System. So today, let’s talk a little bit about both of these worlds and the general feel of the Cypher System before we start building our characters. Ready? Let’s dive in.
The Ninth World
Let’s start with Numenara. Numenera, as I mentioned above, takes place in the Ninth World. This setting is known as the Ninth World because, after the many billions of years, the world has seen the rise and fall of incredible, incomprehensibly advanced civilizations before. Specifically, eight times before. Now, it is the time of the Ninth World.
This Ninth World is suffused with the technologies from all of the previous worlds that came before it. Your character may be a fusion of steel and flesh, or control flames, or exist partially out of phase with the rest of reality. While those around you may know these things as the deepest sorceries, they are merely the remnants of the progress and discoveries made by the ancients before you. You may be one of those grasping at the truth that all that powers this vast, weird world is not all that it seems… that there were those who came before, and that these powers have sources that may be able to be recorded, understood, and studied. You may be one of the Aeon Priests, disciples of the Amber Pope, who understand all too well the nature of the ancients’ leftovers, the Numenera, as it is called. You may be a citizen of the Steadfast, one of the nine known, relatively civilized kingdoms. Or perhaps your Game Master has other plans…
On the other hand, we have the Strange. The default plan for the Strange is to start as an agent of the Estate, working to keep threats like the Planetovores from destroying Earth. To accomplish that, you travel the Strange, exploring pocket dimensions known as Recursions. Two of the most well known are Ardeyn and Ruk, while there is an infinite number of other Recursions, most created by “fictional leakage” from Earth. The Recursion Ardeyn is a realm of high fantasy, thought to have been created by the discoverer of the Strange. Meanwhile, Ruk, a Recursion lurking in the Shoals of Earth, operates according to the laws of Mad Science. Its fractured factions contain a great many threats to Earth, most notably, the Karum, who are literally out to destroy Earth. Furthermore, as you travel between Recursions, you’ll encounter Translation. Translation is when (either voluntarily or involuntarily) a being is altered to fit in with the Recursion they’ve traveled to; changing clothing, equipment, potentially even species, gender, and abilities.
The Beauty of the Cypher System
You, being a saavy reader, may have noticed some recurring themes between these two settings and a point of contention. Both of these settings have wide open potential powersets with incredible and varied possibilities. The question, as with all games that promise such flexibility in abilities, is how does the Cypher System handle such differences? The answer here is pretty darn elegantly.
A character is defined in terms of a single descriptive sentence. Your character might be “Molly is a Sneaky Jack that Exists Partially Out Of Phase” or perhaps “Grigori is a Brash Vector that Abides In Stone”. Both of these are sound kind of awesome, right? You may not know what a Jack is or what a Vector is yet, but the names already have a ring of cool to them. You may not know what mechanical effect being Brash or Sneaky has on your character, but those words tell you plenty about character. You definitely don’t know what “Abiding In Stone” means without reading the book, but it sparks your imagination and makes you wonder what it could mean.
Next week, though? That’s when we’ll start digging deep, making characters, and you’ll get to find out just what these awesome sentences actually mean. Until then, make sure to….
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