The Numenera Starter Set is a boxed set from Monte Cook Games designed to introduce beginners to a whiz-bang setting and 21st century game mechanics, and it does so with smashing success.
There are a number of starter boxed sets on the market. Pathfinder, Dungeons & Dragons, and Cubicle 7’s Lone Wolf Adventure Game all have boxed sets designed to give a beginning player everything she needs to start killing kobolds on a Saturday night. The Numenera Starter Set distinguishes itself from the pack in its setting and its system.
Tammie Webb Ryan of Monte Cook Games said the Numenera Starter Set would be perfect for novices because,”the game mechanics are easy for new players to grasp intuitively, and the Ninth World is an amazing, engaging science-fantasy world in which to have adventures. The Numenera Starter Set optimizes the initial experience with the rules and the setting for players to step quickly from everyday life into the far, far distant future of the Ninth World.”
If you are unfamiliar with Numenera, it’s set one billion years in the future. Countless civilizations have risen and fallen. The Earth, which should have been destroyed as the Sun transitions into a red giant state, appears to have been moved to a safer orbit.
It is a world of stupifying technology and harrowing threats, such as the Iron Wind–a cloud of rogue nanobots which mutates beyond reckoning any organic material it comes in contact with. Technology in Numenera is so advanced that it has truly become indistinguishable from magic.
Yet the world is emerging from a dark age. Explorers and adventurers are braving the wilds, seeking artifacts of lost civilizations. As Numenera creator and RPG genius Monte Cook puts it in the starter set, the game “is about discovering the wonders of the worlds that came before it, not for their own sake, but as the means to improve the present and build a future.”
Unlike the straight fantasy offered by every other starter boxed set on the market, Numenera is a science fiction game with a fantasy skin. It’s fresh, new, and engaging. It gives a player that sense of exploration and wonder which many must have felt discovering D&D for the first time. The mingling of the two genres, and the flat-out brilliant setting ideas nestled by Monte Cook in the Starter Set can make a game of Numenera an awe-inspiring experience.
The Numenera Starter Set introduces the next generation of role-players to 21st-century mechanics.
Every other beginner box set, Athena love ’em, sets out to explain game mechanics from 30 or 40 years ago. And while those mechanics work and we all love rolling a D2o to hit, they’re showing their age. They’re swingy, involved, and can include a lot of math depending on the system. If we are being honest with ourselves, we should confess that our attachment to such old-fashioned mechanics may be a limiting factor in the growth of the role-playing game hobby. Novice gamers may be attracted to the setting and adventure of a role-playing game, but wonder why they have to do so much addition to have fun.
The Cypher System, which is the house system of Monte Cook Games, turns all that upside down. It’s a dream to run and has learned a lot of lessons from the indie games movement of the past fifteen years, while still allowing you to roll a D20 to hit. To name just a few features of the system which will make it easier for newbies:
- The Game Master never rolls dice. If a player is attacked, the player rolls to see if they successfully defend. If a mind-control device is used to make a character attack the local headman, the player rolls to see if they successfully defend. By moving the burden of rolling to the players, it frees the GM to concentrate on the story, and simply makes running less stressful for a novice.
- Non-player character stats are vastly simplified. Pick a number between 1 and 10, 1 for a weak non-player character, 10 if you are barfight opponent is Zeus. Multiply that number by three, and you have the target number for all rolls players might have to make against that character. And yes, the states can get more detailed for more important NPCs, but at its core, the system is just that simple.
- The core of a Numenera character is a sentence which describes your character. For example, the Numenera Starter Set includes a pre-generated character, Caris, who “is a Swift Glaive [fighter] who Wields Two Weapons at Once.” A novice told that simple sentence already knows a number of things about that character. Furthermore, being swift, a glaive, and wielding two weapons at once all have mechanics to go with them. Compare that to the character sheet of a 1st level fighter. A newbie would have to parse a number of game mechanics and concepts before they could figure out what their character was good at, and thusly how to play them.
If you’re looking to get a niece, nephew, son, or daughter into gaming, you should check out the Numenera Starter Set today!
How do you think novices are best brought into the hobby? Let us know below!
All images courtesy Monte Cook Games.
Ben Riggs speaks five languages, and has lived in four countries on three continents, but still manages to lose his keys in the bathroom. A friend to man, animal, and werewolf alike, you can discover more of Ben’s thoughts on game, the universe, and everything on Twitter, or on the Plot Points Podcast, available on iTunes or Libsyn.