Originally published at: ht-
Although Monte Cook Games has been very busy with the release of their newest game, The Strange, they haven’t neglected their original release, the multi award-winning Numenera. Their latest release, Technology Compendium: Sir Arthour’s Guide to the Numenera, focuses specifically on the bits of technology left over from the previous eight worlds which now litter the Ninth. These include cyphers, which are one shot use objects which players will have to monkey with to see what they do. Numenera also includes artifacts, which are devices with more than one use. Of course, because these artifacts were created by races long since dead (or something else?), the current inhabitants of the Ninth World will still have to poke, prod and guess as to what they do. Even if they get the artifact to work, it might not be used in the way its creators intended. A toaster might be used as a torture device rather than a bread warmer, for example. Then there are oddities. These are exactly what you might think – things that have no discernible use to the players or their characters, but are there because some previous race had a use for them. These might include things like a telescope device, but when you look through it, everything you see is coloured purple and all living creatures look like tree sloths. Who knows? Maybe it’s just the way the PCs’ brains interpret the visuals of the device. Maybe it’s a failsafe to prevent anyone but the original owner from using the device properly. It could be anything, but no one will ever know, in or out of the game! Oddities are there just to enhance the weird nature of Numenera and to give players something to think about.
Sir Arthour’s Guide to the Numenera is essentially two books in one. The first two dozen or so pages are for the GM, and are designed to be a guide on how to create, use and implement Numenera in your campaign. Here you’ll get an introduction as to who Sir Arthour is, along with a pretty in-depth look at the different power sources for various Numenera and the multitude of ways they can be used. Numenera are technology, but it’s also technology completely and utterly alien to the current residents of the planet, so even if there are multiple, or even plentiful, versions of a particular Numenera type, that doesn’t mean they are being used in the same way, or even correctly (per the original vision of the piece). Is essence, the game of Numenera is one of people who are technology scroungers, and this first section does a great job of reminding you of this fact.
This first section is written out of character, because it’s speaking directly to the Gamesmaster. It is meant to be a guide and/or learning tool to help one’s game become more detailed. You are given examples of different ways aspects of reality, like light, time, sound, magnetism, gravity, and heat can be used in pieces of Numenera. You are also given examples of chemical, biotech, the datasphere (think the evolution of the internet) and even self-aware machines that would also count as Numenera. Most of the examples in this section involve offensive capabilities or are traps for the PCs to fall into, which makes sense. After all, this section is designed to help the GM, as most will use Numenera in one of these two ways. I personally tend to focus more on the oddities side, but I realize I’m also probably in the minority in wanting to give players a blow gun that shoots out thoughts as rock rather than healing items or heat rays.
I also appreciated that this first section gave frank advice like, “Don’t use time travel,” or anything else that would give concrete evidence of any of the previous worlds. Numenera is best when evoking a sense of mystery, alien horror and wonder. To reveal too much is to miss the point of the game. I also enjoyed seeing a new descriptor buried in this section which will allow you to play some sort of artificial intelligence. You get a lot of stat boosts, but real hindrances to healing and dealing with fleshy life forms. It looks really interesting. In fact, everything about this section is fantastic and well worth reading, no matter how experienced with Numenera or RPGs in general you feel you are.
Now, Monte Cook Games COULD have released the first section as its own stand-alone piece, as they did with titles like In Strange Aeons, Love and Sex in the Ninth World or Injecting the Weird, but instead they bundled it with the second part of the book which, at over 100 pages, is the real meat of this piece. If you picked up previous digital PDFs from Monte Cook games, like Cypher Collection I or Artifacts and Oddities Collection I, than you know what to expect here. You’ll find chapters on Cyphers, Artifacts and Oddities, all done in similar manners to those previous releases. Don’t think you’re getting the same content however. For example, in Cypher Collection I, there were “only” fifty new cyphers to use. Here in the cyphers chapter in Sir Arthour’s Guide to the Numenera, you are roughly 500 new cyphers (I lost count as my mind started to wander around 400 and I still had several pages to go.). There are tons of new things here, along with random charts to roll on and a full page look at how to use malfunctions as GM intrusions.
Of course, you would think five hundred cyphers would be enough of a selling point, but we still have the artifacts and oddities! With both sections you, again, have a refresher on what the specific type of Numenera is meant to be, the random rolling lists and a whole bevy of new items to throw at your players. You have approximately 225 new artifacts and 300 oddities. That is an insane amount of content. Each new item gets a little blurb about it. Cyphers and artifacts get a full paragraph, while oddities get about a sentence each. All of the book is exceptionally well done, and if you’re in the need for more items to place in your Numenera campaign, then Sir Arthour’s Guide to the Numenera is a must own. There is so much stuff here you’ll never need another book or PDF on the subjects. Of course, that doesn’t mean more won’t be made, but I can’t imagine anyone being able to use All of these in their time GM’ing a Numenera campaign.
So yes, Sir Arthour’s Guide to the Numenera is an absolute steal for its $14.95 price tag. Those previous released collections offered only a fraction of the Numenera found here, and you’re getting a bigger bang for your buck with the Technology Compendium. About the only people I can see not getting their money’s worth out of this sourcebook are those that absolutely have to homebrew their worlds from the ground up. Hey, if you want to make your own Numenera, more power to you. I do it myself. However, you can’t deny that this book will not only save you a lot of time, but reading it will help you to really craft better objects to place in your campaign. You get a solid look at where the designers are coming from, and with so many examples in this thing, your idea might already be made and waiting for you nestled amongst the pages of this tome. This is certainly another fine addition to the Numenera line, and one fans of the game will really enjoy.
[5 of 5 Stars!]