OK Game report time! Last night I ran my game of Numenera that I talked about yesterday. I was amazed that I got to it actually as yesterday was an insanely busy day for me and by the time it was all over I had 10 minutes to get my computer set up and get the game up and in the hangout! To start with I worked my wifes shift for me today so she could go and help our eldest daughter buy some stuff for her new flat and after the shift was over my 16 year old daughter had her leavers dinner (which is kind of like a prom in Tasmania for my American friends) and so I spent the rest of the day chasing after her and making sure everything was awesome!
There is a reason that I told you all of the above information too. It is a very pertinent reason as well to the whole Numenera game from a GM’s perspective. But we will get to that soon enough. All of the players turned up and despite a very short power outage dropping me early in the piece for a few minutes the game was relatively stable. I saw a couple of the players drop out here and there but they were always back straight away. I am not going to rehash the game plot here, you have the video link below for that if you want to see what happened. I am going to talk about three things;
- What the players thought
- What I thought (as a GM)
- Will I play it again?
What the players thought
During the game I could see that most of the players were beginning to get the feel of the game and I tried my best to move the spotlight so everyone had equal time. One player, I noted, was not getting it and I tried to keep sending them the hook but at the end of the game he had some quite valid points as to why he struggled to find the hook. He made the note that it was a very ambitious one-shot to run. On the other hand, I was getting some immediate feedback from one of the players, Libby Furr, who I said I would highlight her characters statement as the quote of the night;
Now that quote may not sound like much but when it is uttered around 20 times it begins to make the GM giggle. It was great. In fact the characters all had a life to them in my head as we played. Libby also mentioned that she loved how swiftly the game played and found the setting very intriguing.
The player who did not find the joy in the game made a very valid point. He stated that as a one shot it was hard to pull off because it had a double whammy for new players (and we all had never played this game before):
- They were learning a new system and mechanic; and
- They were learning a new setting that is not related to any other pre-existing setting
These are two very valid points now I think about them. Say we were learning the new 5E D&D mechanics for example. With this we could focus on learning the mechanics but we could still relate to the setting, so if we were playing a rogue, we know how they act. We just need to learn how the system allows them to act that way. On the flip side, imagine I was running a FATE game where we were all experienced players but the setting was one full of alien creatures with insubstantial bodies living in a musical world. In this instance we know how the mechanic works and we just focus our attention on what the hell this setting is all about.
With Numenera, the setting and the system were both really unknowns and so it was a big ask for the players to wholeheartedly love it while they were dealing with an unknown system and a very different setting. I spent a lot of the game slowing things down when they came to decision points and attempting to explain how difficulty worked. In the end a few had gotten it and a few still had a way to go but I acknowledge that though the mechanic is simple, it takes some teaching for it to become seamless.
That player also went on to say that he was amazed at the character generation process and how from three short word choices such a full and impressive character came out at the end. He was very impressed at how the interaction of those statements brought out such interesting, in depth characters that were unique. After all there were three Glaive characters and they all felt very unique in play which was a little surprising, even to me!
Finally, I got a message from the player who I had never played with prior to this game and I am going to let that message speak for itself. This message came from John Lindley who played Uder in game;
I really enjoyed that. It’s a great system.
The reduction of maths and comparison of die from the GM makes the game a hell of a lot faster. Along with the use of 1D20 and no switching to the relevant die according to relevant action.
The no roll for attack also speeds things up.
I like the fact you can improve your outcome by applying skill and edges. It makes you concentrate on not only what you character can do, but who your character is and doing actions accordingly to use said edges or skills.
The game itself I found was relatively straight forward, but I did have the opportunity to read over the core rules and players handbook. However, (there is always a however or a but), from the game being a first session for all of us, there is always going to be things that need to be fleshed out, but this comes from experience and more play.
Overall I had good fun playing as Uder, and actually would enjoy playing him again in the future if a chance arises. I now also feel confident with joining a play by post Numenera game that I just got approval to join.
Thanks, it was great fun, and you all seem like great people, hope to see more of you all.
I am quite happy to have been a part of introducing John to the system.
What the GM thought?
First and foremost let us go back to how incredibly busy I was yesterday. I literally had about twenty minutes in total to develop the game. This made me nervous as I am used to a lot of prep work, but my wife’s shift was very busy and I had limited time. Over the past few days I had made all of the characters for the game (you can look at them in this post) and you can see that I had my concept in place. There was a pyramid that had descended from the sky and it was likely to be full of interesting Numenera.
I grabbed a note book and sat down with Monte’s advice in my head that all I had to do was plan for the interesting bits and pieces in the game. The system is deceivingly simple so that the GM really does get to just concentrate on the interesting stuff. If I want to make a new critter then I literally have 30 seconds of work to do to get it up and running. A trap you say – probably less. What do I design? Just the points that I think are relevant, some ideas to throw at them in game and then lay it down at the table and see what happens.
In fact I took a very Dungeon World approach to this and just laid out a few particulars (conniving bandit warlord, strange pyramid, numenera hating chirogs) and laid it out on the table in the hopes that I would learn what happened from the players. It worked, really, really well. Not to prove my good friend Stuart McDermid right but I really did like the short design period I had. That twenty minutes was over preparation for the three hour game that I ran. To me it was also a very fun game to boot.
OK, I have to try and take an impartial look at the setting because I did not use any of the world setting as laid out in the Numenera book. I used some creatures and as I discovered afterwards, I did some stuff wrong too. Firstly, I only used the spirit of Monte Cook’s game to develop my own setting. The spirit is that of discovery through weird technology and I think I achieved that. We had a discussion after the game that this was the point of it. I hope the game was done in the right spirit. Much of the time as I was narrating what was actually going on in my brain was;
Describe, be descriptive, it is not like a gun it is a cylinder made of metal that gleams in the hand and has a minute lever a third of the way along it.
Dont just describe it as crystal, make the facets stand out and how would the sun react to that. Quick, damn it what is that word again!
It is a very new experience to be describing technology that does not yet exist that is now old and likely to be used for completely different purposes. I think I got the feel right though and I get that I did that from Libby’s constant “Oh! interesting…” when she started to make the connections that I had in my head from the start. I obviously can’t say for sure that was the case but I think it was.
This descriptive focus is something that is quite challenging as a GM and it is why I would actually probably say to practice in your games. It is hard and getting the words out at times can be a difficulty rating 10 (I made a Numenera joke) at times…
Stuff I did wrong was all surrounding the creatures. None of it was world destroying, earth shattering wrongness and it is stuff that will improve as I become more familiar with the system. I must iterate to my players that Chirog’s are not weak creatures, just so they do not take that to heart!
Will I Play it Again?
Yes, I will. I will likely play it again in a few weeks time actually. The whole purpose to me running this one shot is I am trying to find a game that I can run as my secondary game online. I used Traveller for the past two years and I am now trialling a few games to see if it will be a Traveller type game or something else that I will run.
I really like the minimalist prep time that the game has and I loved the interaction I had with the players. The focus is really on the role playing and I need to stress that focus. With that in mind though, could I make a campaign in this game?
That is the thought I was having when I went to bed last night. The game is new, fresh and great BUT can I see what a campaign would look like in it from my perspective. You see, one of the reasons that I run games is to explore stories and concepts that I want to. Numenera though is such an alien setting that most of the preconceived ideas and stories I have do not fit it very well. Though there are a few which I am writing my game Detritus for that would fit well, as my good friend and fellow RPG Knights blogger Cameron Corniuk once told me.
So that is the real question for me. Can I make a campaign from this game? I will run some more one shot adventures in the next month and hopefully come up with an answer. Thanks to Monte Cook for the game and also the video that inspired me to get back into the game that featured him running a game for Shanna Germain, Bruce Cordell and Jen Page. They all inspired me to give this game another go and I am very glad for it. Until next time, keep rolling!