Descriptor Creation Walkthrough

Published January 13, 2014 by in For Gamemasters, For Players, Mechanics


TM and © 2013 Monte Cook Games, LLC

TM and © 2013 Monte Cook Games, LLC

This site hosts quite a few fan-made Descriptors for Numenera at this point, but there’s no reason we should stop.   There are plenty of good adjectives out there, ready to be converted into whatever you need to make your character heroic and a bit more detailed.

The Optional Rules chapter of the core book includes guidelines for customizing Descriptors.  We’ll be using those rules as a reference here for creating our own from scratch.

Step One:  Name & Premise

Pretty important step right here- coming up with a name.  Adjectives work best and it’s good to stick to one word when possible.  I like to go for cool sounding ones when I can.  Try to use ones that fit well into the character description sentence, but just go with what you like really.  This is all about style.

Obviously we’ll need to start with some kind of premise in mind for what we’re going for.  Today I want to make a Descriptor for a really perceptive character since my wife and I have been watching the show Sherlock a lot.  Since there’s already a skill called perception, let’s go with Observant instead.  “I’m an Observant Jack who Works the Back Alleys” sounds pretty cool to me.

Step Two:  Rules Template

The rules for custom Descriptors are on page 117 of the core book.  There are 4 basic Descriptor types listed there:

  • +4 to a pool, 1 broad/combat skill
  • +4 to a pool, 2 narrow skills
  • +2 to a pool, 1 broad/combat skill, 1 narrow skill
  • +2 to a pool, 3 narrow skills

The Observant character is probably going to be using the Intellect pool, but is probably not as deeply intellectual as the Strong Willed character.  Closer to the Intelligent or Learned Descriptors, which only have 2 points of Intellect pool.  Perception tasks, while covering all five senses, still seems more narrow than, say, all social interactions.   So, let’s plan on using the +2 pool, +3 narrow skills template.

Step Three:  Pool & Skills

Perception is probably an Intellect task and our character sounds like they’d be a bit brainy and in-the-moment, so let’s put our 2 pool points into Intellect.

For skills, our first skill will be “All perception tasks” as we mentioned earlier.   Since perceptive characters often leverage their ability to notice details with their often impossibly accurate knowledge of obscure trivia, let’s make the Descriptor trained in “an area of knowledge of your choice”.  Along similar lines, let’s make the character trained in remembering things they’ve read or studied, in contrast to the memory skill that the Intelligent Descriptor provides.  Since we don’t want to burden the player with writing down every topic the character might have read about, why don’t we make the skill “remembering trivial details you might have read or studied”?   Sounds pretty close to the kinds of usefully odd factoids that perceptive characters like to spout off in fiction.  As a skill, it doesn’t roll off the tongue, but it gets the job done.

Step Four:  Inabilities & Extra Equipment

Starting from the templates provided in the Descriptor customization section of the book, you can add a narrow skill by also providing an inability (negative skill).  If the Descriptor seems lacking at the end you can add up to 15 shins worth of equipment to even things up a bit.  I think the Descriptor is coming along fine though, so let’s not tinker with it.

Step Five:  Connections to the Starting Adventure

People forget about this step sometimes, and it’s certainly not necessary if you’re making your Descriptor for your own personal use, but even then it can be helpful for brainstorming.

Here’s what I’ve come up with for Observant:

    1. You’ve noticed a general need for adventurers around these parts and have worked your way into a group of them.
    2. You observed the party forming from afar and subtly manipulated them into working with you.
    3. You’re clearly the only one who can solve this mystery.  Your abilities are such a burden.
    4. Your observations often get you into trouble, so you’re trying to mend your public image.

Pulling It All Together

Here’s our Observant Descriptor as it now stands:

Observant

You’re  an incredibly perceptive person with a penchant for pairing minor clues with trivial information.  You solve mysteries, scout ahead, or keep watch.  You’re great at spotting potential threats or interesting Numenera when the need arises.

Awareness:  +2 to your Intellect pool.

Skill:  Trained in all perception tasks.

Skill:  Trained in an area of knowledge of your choice.

Skill:  Trained in remembering trivial details that you might have read or studied before.

Choose one of the following as a connection to the starting adventure:

  1. You’ve noticed a general need for adventurers around these parts and have worked your way into a group of them.
  2. You observed the party forming from afar and subtly manipulated them into working with you.
  3. You’re clearly the only one who can solve this mystery.  Your abilities are such a burden.
  4. Your observations often get you into trouble, so you’re trying to mend your public image.

Looks pretty good I’d say.  Interesting, heroic in its own way, and allowing for a certain amount of player interpretation and customization.  As you can see it’s not so hard to come up with a fairly functional and fun Descriptor.  The simplicity of the Cypher system really does all the work, it’s just up to us to get creative and fill in the details.