[Numenera Actual Play, One Shot] In For A Penny, In For A Pound…

Posted: February 8, 2015 by pointyman2000 in Actual Play, Numenera, Roleplaying Games
Tags: , ,

Thanks to a proper alignment of stars, I finally got my chance to run something new. In this case, it was Monte Cook’s Numenera. It was a one-shot, and the venue was a nearby Friendly Local Gaming Store called Makati B&B. The players were all new to me, so it was going to be one of those experiences where we all try to get along and finish the job.

Dramatis Personae

I had the players make characters beforehand to save time, and this is what I got:

Whyttman (Played by Raymz) is a Swift Jack who Rides the Lightning. She is a grizzled veteran, having spent her youth fighting in the crusades. Eventually becoming disillusioned with the Aeon religion, she ended up a mercenary, hiring out her services to the highest bidder. The caustic, ruthlessly pragmatic merc is known for her unerring aim and her lightning-infused arrows.

Mikael Mendoza (Played by Jak) is a Stealthy Glaive Who Works The Back Alleys. Abandoned as a child, he grew up with a street gang learning the ways of the thief. A gang war resulted in the deaths of his gang members, with Mikael barely able to escape with his life. This led to using his natural stealth skills towards more martial pursuits, killing off the rival gang one by one. Eventually caught and imprisoned for the murders, Malachore influenced Mikael’s decision to leave the criminal world and pursue mercenary work.

Zurt Namir (Played by DJ) is a Hardy Glaive who Rages. He’s ex-military who finished his tour of service and opted out of the service. Plying his skills for money to gather enough to retire comfortably. Currently looking for interesting adventures and experiences while he’s young.

Malachore (Played by Jose) is a Mechanical Nano who Fuses Flesh and Steel. He lost his arms from an accident thanks to Jack D Delver. Now he is in search for not only his missing mother but the source of numenera that took everything away from him.

Jack D Delver (Played by Gino) is an “expert” explorer who travels the world in search of adventure with his trusty friends gathering numenera along the way; by any means necessary, total bros with the Aeon priests and the Order of Truth with the unreasonable hate for cultists and abhumans.

It’s a pretty good spread of characters, honestly, with each one being unique enough to stand out among the rest. Players noted that character creation was incredibly easy, with some using an online tool to help come up with their characters.

Story begins after the jump!

The story begins with the team making their way towards the final chamber of a mysterious, window-less tower made of a strange metal. They’ve managed to hack and slash their way through the inhabitants, all the pursuit of their objective: a power source they’d been hired to locate and… acquire. The journey had been difficult, with the tower exhibiting a strange effect on their bodies, as they felt heavier with every step they took inside.

Mikael managed to use his knowledge of lockpicking to find a way to get the chamber doors to open despite the intricate security that would take hours to breach through less clever approaches. The team beheld a circular chamber, 30-meters in diameter with a large, spherical device in the center, set up on a pedestal with exposed wiring and strange, floating words and numbers… that must be the object they were hired to get!

Malachore took this as his cue and moved inside, hoping to get close enough to the sphere in an attempt to study it. No sooner had he stepped into the chamber when a flickering red beam of light swept up and down over his body, and alarms started to sound across the tower!

Around the sphere, six sentries appeared, rising from the floor of the circular chamber. Capable of firing strange rays of harmful sound and vibration, the four-legged sentries began to attack the characters. As if that wasn’t bad enough, parts of the chamber began peeling off to reveal why they’d been feeling out of sorts… the circular chamber, which was now a platform, was hurtling itself upwards at incredible speed. The could see clouds down below, and it was only a matter of time until they would run out of air.

The battle was short, but hectic, with Whyttman firing several electrically-charged bolts from her crossbow, and Zurt Namir chopping several sentries apart with nothing but his broadsword and his terrifying frenzied strength. Malachore reached the sphere and attempted to manipulate it, but made a miscalculation, sending the platform tilting at a dangerous angle, and sending his team tumbling towards their doom. Jack‘s misfortune sent him hurtling towards where Mikael was, knocking the Glaive over the edge of the platform, where he clung on for dear life.

Malachore was able to right the craft and slow its ascent despite being assaulted all throughout. The team rallied and destroyed the sentries. Once more, they had somehow managed to win and come home.

After a few days upon their return, the team went to deal with Ratface, their abhuman informer who game them the job. Ratface was grateful for their success and paid dthem their reward, asking if they were interested in earning more. Jack took point in the conversation, and asked for details. Ratface informed them that there was a buyer who was looking for a hardy crew that would be willing to find a way to acquire a mysterious Numenera known as the Egg of Wukong. Which was being held by a mysterious cult of those who have fused flesh with steel.

Jack wanted to try haggling for better pay, and opted to do so by pointing his crossbow to Ratface. The savvy informant stubbornly refused, instead cutting into his offer. He would not be intimidated, as there were other adventurers out there who would be willing to take the job.

Mikael managed to diffuse the situation and soon enough the group was out to retrieve the Egg of Wukong, a numenera of supposedly vast power.

To investigate the matter further, the team decided to do some research on the Cult itself. they traveled towards a town which was known for trading with the cult in question. They waited, biding their time until the cult’s trade caravan arrived. Casual investigation revealed that the entire caravan was selling various Cyphers, and that the traders would accept no shins for payment, instead requiring various foodstuffs or everyday produce.

The team tried different routes to gain information. Whyttman ingratiated herself into the cult, and asked if she coudl be initiated among their number. Malachore on the other hand revealed his nature to the highest member of the trade caravan, an Abbot of the cult, who told him that his gift was given by Wukong, and that he would be welcome to join them if he was to pass the tests presented in their temple of trials.

It didn’t take long for a makeshift plan to be hatched: Malachore and Mikael would be introducing themselves as guests of the Abbot, with Mikael posing as a pro-cyborg bodyguard. Whyttman would take the longer route and join as an initiate and find out what else is going on in the cult from that end. Jack and Zurt Namir would hang back and provide support as cavalry, using Jack‘s tracking devices on the others so that he could keep an eye on them.

The first rule of no plan surviving contact with the enemy proved itself right once again as while Whyttman, Malachore and Mikael were successful in their infiltration, Zurt‘s stealth skills proved to be their undoing.

One of the perimeter guards heard him and approached the two demanding to know what they were doing on sacred ground.

Jack tried to fast talk his way through, showing the guard the tracking device in his hand, “I was just following the red blips on this here, artifact I have.”

Unfortunately for him, the guard apparently had more than a passing familiarity with technology and realized that it was a tracking device that showed that they has no less than 3 tracers already inside the camp! The guard fled with surprising speed, reaching for a cypher on his person and triggering it to sound an alarm.

Jack threw a matter scrambling grenade at the fleeing guard, turning the guard’s leg into vapor, but failing to silence him. Zurt finished the job with his broadsword.

At this point Whyttman was trying to sneak away from the rest of the initiates when she was caught by a guard who helpfully redirected her to the rest of the initiates. When the alarm sounded, Whyttman realized that the gig was up and ran off to meet up with Jack… only to see Zurt hacking apart a guard, and several more guards following her escape.

Mikael and Malachore were fortunate to make it to the actual test before the alarms sounded. The first trial involved trying to survive a room that was to be pumped full of nanites from the Iron Wind. Malachore tossed a gravity grenade that pulled the nanties towards it, and they dove into the next room…

Where they found a martial artist that was waiting to test their skills. The two initially thought they had an advantage, until the martial artist revealed an ability to duplicate himself. Now outnumbered, Mikael and Malachore had their backs to a wall, until Malachore decided to try tossing a mind-scrambling cypher at the opponent and ending up reversing the martial artist’s ethics for a single turn! Overcome by his hateful actions, the opponent let them pass… only to realize his mistake too late to stop them from entering the final chamber.

The Egg of Wukong was a 5-foot tall egg shaped device that hovered in the middle of a strange spherical room. Malachore approached it, but realized that the room was giving him a compulsion to speak only truth, and he had nearly blurted out that they were out to steal the egg when Mikael gave him a backhand to stop him just in time.

Mikael attempted to grab the egg, but felt the surface of it ripple and start eating into his gloves. Malachore stepped forward, using his mechanical limbs to grab it, and felt himself assaulted by the urge to reveal his true motives. He fought against it, and watched with some surprise as a helmet formed from the surface of the Egg of Wukong and clattered to the ground.

It was then that Mikael and Malachore realized the Egg’s true nature. It was a wish-granting numenera, capable of forming any cypher they could dream of! No wonder the cult was so nonchalant about trading away cyphers for mere grain and food!

Malachore then took it upon himself to seize the egg, and make one more wish upon it… a wish to transport himself, and his companions to the safety of Ratface’s location. A bright lime colored light filled the room, and the entire party found themselves in Ratface’s bathroom, where the abhuman was currently bathing.

Much to Malachore’s dismay, the egg had shrunk to the size of an ostrich egg and no longer gleamed with power. A cursory check confirmed his theory, the device needed an incredible amount of power to function. The cult had kept it in a volcanic chamber so the ambient heat could supply it with near endless amounts of energy.

Jack then wanted to haggle upwards again, but Ratface would have none of it. Before they could continue their argument however, a crossbow bolt impaled Ratface’s head to the far wall of his bathtub. The team turned to see the source of the bolt, which was a dinner-plate sized hole drilled through several walls from a sniper with a numenera crossbow.

The team, robbed of their pay, scrambled after the assassin. Malachore, who had climbed up on the top of Ratface’s home to get a better view was ambushed as the sniper teleported behind him and made a grab for the Egg! Malachore stumbled backwards, falling down over the ledge and to the balcony below. As the assassin tried to flee, he was attacked by Zurt and Whyttman, managing to avoid both attacks before being tackled in full by Mikael.

Trapped under Mikael’s grapple, the assassin took out the Egg, and a grenade, detonating the device… to power the Egg and teleported away, bringing Mikael with him.


The party was semi-successful in their run, having acquired the knowledge of the artifact, and access to the rest of Ratface’s belongings (for now.) That said, one of their number had been taken away by a mysterious assailant, and someone has the Egg and all it can do.


Mikael landed in the middle of a large chamber, surrounded by hooded figures. On the floor, carved into the marble, was the symbol of the Convergence, a cult of individuals seeking personal power with the use of the numenera. The assassin stood up, hoisting Mikael to his feet and bowed.

“Excellent work, mi’lord.” the assassin acknowledged.


And that was how I ended the one-shot I ran for the team. I don’t exactly have plans on continuing this game yet, but I did feel that ending it at a cliffhanger was something that would work for the group. Numenera was a fun experience to GM, and the simplicity of the rules was a major contributor. I didn’t even have to reference the rules during play, and not rolling cut down on any slow moments in play.

If anything Numenera is a great game to teach you to think faster as a GM since you no longer have the usual tricks to buy time… rolling for nothing, collecting your thoughts while pretending to check the rules… those are all unavailable to you and you have to keep the game flowing as quickly as possible. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a happy problem, and one that I think will resolve itself the next time I play Numenera… which I hope will be very soon.

If you haven’t had enough Numenera after this article, do check out Gino’s playtest and Raymz’s thoughts on the system.

  1. This pretty much mirrors my play experience with Numenera. Heck, I liked it so much that before 5e came out, I did a fantasy conversion of the game! (Think Cypher system for DND)

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