[Let’s Study Numenera] Part 3: Combat

Posted: August 9, 2013 by pointyman2000 in Articles, Let's Study, Numenera, Roleplaying Games
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Today we’re looking at the basic combat mechanics of Monte Cook’s Numenera. I’m glad to see that the core combat rules don’t complicate things too much from the standard basic mechanics of the game.


Initiative is determined by a Speed Pool roll against the NPC’s target number. As with everything, the Target Number is equal to three times the NPC’s level. Therefore an NPC of level 3 will have a Target Number of 9.

Initiative is divided between those who act before the NPCs and who acts after the NPCS. It’s nice and simple and there’s no hard rule on how to determine whom among them goes first in each category.


An attack is pretty simple: roll and compare your result against the Opponent’s Target Number. If the roll is equal to or greater than the Target Number, then the attack hits. Melee attacks are resolved with Might or Speed, while Physical ranged attacks are Speed actions. Special abilities and Esoteries will occasionally require an Intellect action.


Upon a successful attack, damage is also pretty easily handled. Attacks subtract from any of the target’s stat Pools, usually the Might Pool. NPCs have a health characteristic that acts as HP, damage is subtracted from this value.

Damage is always a specific amount determined by the weapon, and additional damage can be performed by applying Effort.


Another straightforward mechanic, Armor subtracts from the damage taken from an attack.

Given these mechanics it’s easy to see that Numenera is refreshingly simple to run. It also means that for most of the fights, players are rolling against a single number. While some people might find this kind of simple mechanic to be somewhat disappointing, I think it goes well in line with the idea that combat isn’t the central theme of this game.

Numenera is meant to be a game of exploration and discovery, fighting isn’t the point of the game and therefore the focus on it isn’t as exhaustive.

That said there are a lot of options available for simulating other combat concerns such as ranger, and poisons and environmental damage, but the core itself is pretty easy to understand right off the bat.

  1. Paul Record says:

    Ok, I have a few questions that I am struggling with How do you get trained in attacks or defense and do you have to choose from the list in the Glaive explanation (light bashing, light cutting, light ranged, medium bashing…)? Several places tell you that you CANNOT use a tier bonus to gain training in attacks and defense, but unless you’re a Glaive I don’t see how you CAN.
    – Why on Earth would you ever Carry A Quiver? You get Training in ranged attacks at Tier 2 (I think). If you’re a Glaive trying to play a sniper/archer, you’d be an idiot to wait until Tier 2 to get trained in ranged. And the Specialization at Teir 4 would be useless.
    – Exactly how does armor limit your Speed? I would want to know how badly I’m going to be hampered before I chose a Focus Verb that relied on armor (or would be screwed over by wearing armor).

    • Hi Paul

      From what I can tell, the Glaive Second Tier is where you first get a chance to train in attacks. The skill section did mention that getting Trained in such aspects tends to be pretty rare so perhaps we’ve not yet seen any other instances where someone can get Trained in such.

      You’re correct that you get training in Ranged weapons at Tier 2. From what I can tell that’s the earliest you can get training in Ranged Attacks (unless I missed something.) That said I will have to say that it feels a little odd to have Trained in Bows, after you already get Trained in Ranged. I suppose this makes more sense if you’re not a Glaive and you want to run around with a crossbow as a Jack.

      According to the rules under the Equipment heading, armor reduces your available Speed Pool while you’re wearing it. Light reduces your Speed pool by 2, Medium by 3 and Heavy by 5 points. These Speed Pool points are unavailable for use while you’re wearing the armor but become available as soon as you take it off.

      • Paul Record says:

        Thank you so much on replying! Makes much more sense to me now. One final clarification: Is there a way to become trained in a fighting move like, say, “heavy ranged”, if you are NOT a Glaive?

        • From what I understand of the Skill section the only way to get Trained in attacks is through Character Type abilities. I noticed that Jacks get skilled with attacks at the Third Tier, so that’s one alternate means to get it without being a Glaive.

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