[Let’s Study Numenera] Part 2: Character Creation

Posted: August 7, 2013 by pointyman2000 in Articles, Let's Study, Numenera, Roleplaying Games
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Today we’re taking a look at Character Creation for Monte Cooks Kickstarter hit, Numenera. As mentioned in yesterday’s article, Numenera is a weird science-fantasy setting with a lot of wondrous elements not often found in most RPGs.

Given such a setting it becomes important to be able to come up with equally compelling characters. Thankfully the systems seem to be fairly light, with a basic framework for creating characters. For the purpose of this article, we’ll be going through the character creation rules step-by-step.

Before all that, we’ll tackle the primary components of a character. Every character in Numenera has 3 primary characteristics: Might, Speed and Intellect. Might measures Physical strength and hardiness, Speed measures coordination and reflexes, and Intellect is mental acuity and social prowess.

These stats are broken down into two primary components, a Pool and an Edge rating. The Pool is a representation of the potential of the character in that trait, while Edge is the efficiency rating of how well a character uses it.

How this works is that characters can actually expend points in a Characteristic in order to lower the difficulty of a Task, a mechanic known as applying Effort. Normally the cost to lower a difficulty of a task costs 3 attribute points. Edge comes into play by providing a discount to the cost of spending attribute points. Therefore if a character spending Might has an Edge value for Might of 1, then they only need to spend 2 points to apply Effort.

It’s a neat mechanic, and one that helps simulate that characters have something to draw from when the chips are down, and to simulate how people just have a knack for a certain type of activity.

Characters are rated in terms of Tiers. These representt the character’s level of power. Going up in Tiers happens after spending experience points to get 4 benefits, such as increasing capabilities or new skills.

But onto character generation proper. In a nutshell character generation is all about stacking Templates and a little bit of customization. In some ways it reminds me of Legend of the Five Rings after a fashion. Numenera relies on the following formula:

“[Adjective] [Noun] who [Verbs]”

Each of these correspond to a given template. The Adjective is the Descriptor, Noun is the Character Type and Verb is the character’s Focus.

Character Type

Numenera has 3 primary character types: The Glaive, The Jack and The Nano. Glaives fight, Jacks are all-rounders and Nanos are the ones that do strange feats. For the more jaded types, this represents the 3 basic food groups of adventuring: the Fighter, the Rogue and the Mage.

For the purposes of this example, let’s start off with a Glaive. In choosing this Character type, I get the following:

Starting Stats:
Might pool 11
Speed pool 10
Intellect pool 7

I also get 6 additional points to divide among these pools. After a moment I figure I’d go for:

Might Pool 14
Speed Pool 13
Intellect Pool 7

I also get to choose a Background, which is a mostly fluff-based indicator of just how my Glaive became the fighter that he is. In my case, I’ll give my character the Inborn Traits background, meaning that my Glaive is more than human, but not because he was enhanced by machines. Perhaps he’s a mutant?

I also get to roll for, or choose a connection. Each of the Types get a list for them to roll or choose from. In my case I’ll go for:

“Your mentor wrote a book on the martial arts. Sometimes other warriors seek you out to ask about its stranger passages.”

It’s a neat pre-packaged plot hook, and I appreciate it being there as it does help round the character out a bit and add some depth to them.

As for the other mechanical bits, my Glaive character also has the following benefits:

– Effort rating of 1
– Might Edge of 1, Speed Edge of 1 and Intellect Edge of 0
– Can bear 2 cyphers at a time
– Practiced in armor
– Practiced with all weapons
– Trained in Jumping
– Starting Equipment
– Fighting Moves (2 of my choice)
> Pierce (1 Speed point) – Inflict 1 additional point of damage if your weaopn has a sharp point.
> No need for Weapons – Unarmed attacks count as a medium weapon


Descriptors are the second template you choose from. For my Glaive, I’m thinking that his Inborn Traits come to the fore because he’s very difficult to kill. Because of that I’m going for the Tough descriptor.

Tough grants my character the following:

+1 Armor
Add 1 to the points gained when making a recovery roll
Training in Might defense actions
An extra light weapon

Another interesting hook built into it is that Descriptors also come with another small list of plot hooks that tie you in with the other player characters or get your character involved in the adventure.

I’ll go for “You’re acting as a bodyguard for one of the other PCs.”


The focus of a character is what makes them unique. As with the other two sets, this is also a list of different attributes that really kick the weirdness up a notch. They can vary from “Commands Mental Powers” to “Rides the Lightning.”

For my Glaive, I’ll go for “Employs Magnetism” This Focus gives me another hook. I select another PC, whenever I use my power, the metallic items on that character’s body shudder or shake if he’s in close range.

The Focus grants a Tier 1 ability to move metal, allowing me to push, pull or so on. Fine motor control is not available at this Tier.

That sums up character creation for Numenera, excluding the extra detail such as equipment. I find it interesting that it uses each step to add plot hooks, and given the weirdness of the setting, I think it will help to make the characters feel native to the world.

To summarize, my character is:

A Tough Glaive who Employs Magnetism.

Might Pool 14 / Edge 1
Speed Pool 13 / Edge 1
Intellect Pool 7 / Edge 0

Effort 1
Cyphers: Maximum 2

Trained in Might Defense
Trained in Jumping

+1 Armor
Adds 1 to the points gained when making a recovery roll

Fighting Moves:
– Piercing
– No Need for Weapons

It’s quick, easy and characters come out with several large plot hooks that make it easier for a GM to run. I think Monte Cook was onto something with this and I’m glad that he had a chance to bring this out.

Tomorrow we’ll be able to take this Glaive out for a spin, as I’ll take a gander at what combat looks like.


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