All the Little Things

Published March 4, 2015 by in For Gamemasters, Gameplay, Mechanics


There aren’t a lot of specifics in the rules—no guidelines for specific judo moves or the differences between repairing an electrically powered forcewall projector and a biomechanical aircraft. That’s not because those kinds of things are to be ignored, but because those kinds of things are flavor—they are story, description, and elaboration for the GM and the players to provide. Pg. 320 Numenera Core Rule Book

Monte Cook made a brilliant system for all of us to enjoy. There is no debating that, but inside of the very simplicity that he coveted for his system lies a small flaw. Many aspects, rules and mechanics of the game are left up to the GM. Now this is all fine and dandy for the cases where there is only a single GM who interprets everything to the players, but when a group has multiple GM’s or when a player starts gaming with another Numenera group the house rules and GM specific mechanics begin to make the game confusing. Players must adjust to each new set of rules and play their character differently than they had previously. So, I have nailed down some of the glossed over points that are barely, or not even touched upon, in the Numenera Core Rule Book. The rules and mechanics presented bellow are by no means official, but will help GM(s) to run their games with a little more information to guide their decision making process.

Sleep is a very important part of everyday life for humans. In terms of Numenera game-play and mechanics, foregoing sleep (your ten hour recovery roll) means that your recovery rolls will not reset; in effect, stopping health regeneration through normal means. In addition to this, every 28 hours that a PC is kept awake past when they should have fallen asleep (usually sun-down) then their actions are treated at one level harder. This effect is cumulative so that after ten days of sleep deprivation (all tasks being a level 10, base), a human will collapse into a coma like state. This state lasts for about two days before the PC is able to wake again. In addition to this, a PC must sleep on some kind of comfortable surface (i.e. a bedroll, bed, cushion, etc.) to reset their recovery rolls. If the PC sleeps on a surface besides one of these they still are treated as having slept.

Water makes up about 60% of the human body, and they can generally go without it for up to 3 days before dying. When a human PC goes without potable water (at least half a gallon) for a single day they are moved one step down the damage track. This means that a human becomes impaired after 28 hours without water, debilitated after 56 hours, and a dehydrated corpse after 84 hours.

Food can take many forms and can even come in a liquefied state, but, generally, a human needs 2,000 calories a day to maintain their body mass. Rations (and their contents) can vary wildly in the Ninth World, but as a rule of thumb, they do not provide you with any more than this amount. If a human were to be deprived of food for a day, then they would find that all their actions are treated as one level harder on the following day as hunger sets in. Every three consecutive days after this another level is added to the detrimental effect. So, a human who hasn’t eaten for 28 days will die (as everything will have become a level 10 task).

Hunting is something to be considered when living in the wilderness. A PC who is hunting can be hunting for different things and so there are many sub-categories for hunting, but here are some examples:

  • Hunting for a specific creature/plant: A tracking/foraging (Intellect based) task equal to the creatures level. Creature must possibly inhabit the area.
  • Hunting for food/water: A survival task with each three levels of difficulty beaten (level 3, 6 and 9) earning enough food to last a day for one person. For a maximum of three days of food gathered in a single hunt. The difficulty is raised by environments where food and water would be scarce.

When hunting within an area, the PC must spend at least half the day (roughly seven hours) actively looking for their quarry. However, an area can only be successfully hunted three times before it is picked clean. After which point, a new area must be moved to in order to continue hunting. Hunting is also dangerous so encounters with wild beasts and other creatures should be a common occurrence, and if the GM really wants to go in depth, s/he can make every successful hunt for food end with an encounter against the hunted target. This is time consuming however and should only be done if to break the monotony of a long session of traveling through the wilderness.

Inventory Space is something that is lightly touched on, by the Numenera Core Rule Book, but it deserves some more depth when it comes to GM’s wishing for a truly fleshed out world. A mechanic that I find works great is separating items into one of several categories. An item can be classified in sizes of Negligible, Small, Medium, Large, or Carried. These categories are similar to how weapons are categorized with a few minor points.

  • Negligible items are so small that they can easily find room inside a full backpack. These items are things like small jewels, matches, small pebbles. Only when stored in large numbers will they begin to take up a meaningful amount of space. As many as ten Negligible items can be stored as a Small item.
  • Small items are easily placed into a one’s hand and take up a minimal amount of space. When being packed, they take up a single inventory space.
  • Medium items are somewhat bulkier than Small items and tend to be items that are collapsible for storing purposes. An example would be a rolled up bedroll, or maybe even a well packed tent. When being packed, they take up two inventory spaces.
  • Large items are the largest things that can fit into a pack, easily, and tend to be awkward to when packed. Some Large items can take up more space than others, but generally a Large item, when packed, takes up four inventory spaces.
  • Carried items are so large that they tend to never fit into normal containers. And unless the container is fitted, or very spacious (non-portable) storing these items is usually impossible. Carried items can only be carried in your hands and might even require others to help move. Examples of carried items might be Heavy weapons which require sheaths or belts to carry at all. Others might take the form of fallen trees or large boulders.

An average backpack has about 16 inventory spaces inside of it. Pouches and other small containers might have as many as 4. Wagons, ships and other vehicles will have many more spaces than these.

Sanitation was never something really practiced in the Medieval era (what Numenera’s society is loosely base off of), but it isn’t impossible that some have found that regular washing and cleansing of the body has beneficial effects on the body. There are multiple ways of accomplishing this, but the most common might be a simple bath. Taken in cold water, a bath will remove stains and grime, but not much more. Hot water baths tend to give the bather a sense of vigor afterward causing them to shed minor diseases, parasites and the like commonly accrued from lengthy journeys through the Ninth World. And then there are the bath houses only found in some towns and cities. These artificial hot springs are equipped with lotions, bath salts, soap and other bathing implements that help sanitize most any ache, or sore. Bath houses give the bather an extra recovery roll, while carrying the benefit of all other bath types. Bath houses can be costly however and tend to reach into your purse deeper than you would like, but they are a great way of recovering from a traumatic ordeal.

Recovery is one of the core concepts in the Numenera Cypher System. It is how every PC regains lost points from their pools. But it seems that not a whole lot tends to affect them. Some suggestions are that you reward PC’s who live comfortably with higher recovery modifiers than normal. For instance let’s say that a jack and a glaive walk into an inn. The glaive is a tough guy who doesn’t think he needs any more than a single meal and a bedroll in the stables. The jack, however, wants to draw a hot bath, eat breakfast, lunch and dinner over the day and sleep in a nice bed. Each of these should give the jack a +1 modifier to his next recovery roll. So, one meal a day and a semi-comfortable surface to sleep on is all that is necessary to regain your recovery rolls, but two extra meals (+2), a hot bath (+1), and a nice bed for the night (+1) will make all the difference to the two tired adventures. The jack is far more rested than the glaive who forgoes these simple pleasures. A GM should remind his/her players that these comforts can make all the difference in the long run.

Holding Your Breath is a common challenge presented to explorers. Whether it is because you are swimming under water, or passing through a poison gas chamber, you generally can only hold it for so long. A nifty little system of tracking and limiting how long a PC can hold their breath is having it tied to a series of Might tasks. On the first round, the PC must pass a level 1 Might based task. Every other round after that, the DL of the task becomes one step harder. This means that an untrained PC could hold their breath for just over a minute.

Point Blank Range is an already established rule in the Numenera Core Rule Book, but it makes a strange adjustment to fighting that makes the game unbalanced. If you are within immediate range of your target, and using a ranged weapon, you gain an asset towards your attack. This makes it so that a bow and arrow is superior to a sword in every way. A slight amendment to this rule fixes ranged weapons so they are not so overly powerful in comparison to their melee cousins. This amendment is that if a creature is using  a ranged weapon has been attacked in melee within the last round, or the current round, then their attacks are one step more difficult to make with their ranged weaponry.

  • Skjalg Kreutzer

    These are nifty little rules for people interested in that kind of experience. I happily gloss over all that, to get to what I and my group feel is the real action and excitement.

    • Nicholas Johnson

      I just get asked by my players all the time how this, or this works, so I thought it would be nice to show them some written down rules. Plus we have new GM incoming and he wants to have a reliable base of rules to fall back on.

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  • Hanatash

    “Sanitation was never something really practiced in the Medieval era.”

    What? People in the medieval era didn’t live in filth. You watch too much television. They might not have had hot showers every night, but they readily washed themselves, their clothes, their homes, and often even their teeth.