As I mentioned last time, the new Numenera core books are split into two separate volumes. If you want the newest and latest you can get Nuemenera Discovery (the one I covered last time) and keep going with the Numenera game you know and love. If you’d rather not get a new version of the game and/or you want to check out the expanded options then you’ll need Numenera Destiny. Today we’re starting a dive into that and, in contrast to the simple rules and straightforward intention, it’s going to take some time to get through everything!
First, let’s start with what Numenera Destiny actually is. As the name might imply, this second core book is about pushing the game in a new direction and pushing the Ninth World in a new way as well. Where the material in Discovery is about taking on challenges and seeking adventure, the material in Destiny is about establishing stability and making a better future. You need Numenera Discovery to play still, but the options here give your characters tools to take the world by the horns and shape it. There are two major ways it does this: establishing communities and creating numenera. We’re going to start on the first one today, looking at basic character options and the first of the character types, then continue with more details of the new systems in later parts.
First of all, I just want to put out there that Numenera Destiny has thirty five new descriptors, which is almost three times more than the dozen found in Numenera Discovery. This is some serious expansion and only three of them are updated versions of previously-released descriptors: Gregarious, Intimidating, and Passionate all from Character Options 2.
The other descriptors fit roughly into a couple of categories. The first is made of descriptors that are for supporting others, something that’s clearly meant to help out arkai but also community-minded characters of any type. There’s Beneficent (boost to group recovery rolls and social interactions), Civic (the strongest use of the new community rules), Earnest (knowledgeable and comforting), Heroic (inspiring others), Intuitive (quick-acting and resourceful), Lawful (keeping order in your community), Loyal (hub to pull the party together), Nuturing (keeping the community on their feet), Prepared (always have what your party needs), Protective (tanking like a boss), Relentless (keeping your party alive in the wilderness),
Another group of descriptors that works for arkai and jacks is all about being the party face in negotiations and making nice. Adaptable (navigating social interactions), Articulate (making plans and persuading people, so useful in communities as well), Cheerful (making friends and influencing people), Curious (seeing through lies and mysteries), Exacting (unpleasant but truth-detectors), Irrepressible (enthusiastic, if gullible), Meddlesome (poking your nose where it doesn’t belong), and Serene (unreadable and unflappable) are all in this category.
The last category works well for nanos, wrights, delves, and others who are focused on projects. This might be numenera-crafting or study but it can equally apply to building settlements, solving mysteries, or other long-term tasks of lore and study. This includes Committed (good at doing the same thing and stamina), Confident (flexible skill training), Cultured (also flexible with the ability to spot flaws and issues), Empirical (excellent with study and testing), Imaginative (for creative projects), Industrious (for stay-with-it-ness), Obsessive (for one project in particular), Optimistic (never let setbacks trip you up), Organized (an orderly mind is a productive mind), Persevering (for quest-type projects),
A few remaining ones don’t quite fit any category but they are interesting and useful regardless: Forward-Thinking (good initiative and gambling), Risk-Taking (pushing your luck in a game-mechanic sense), and Vicious (bloodthirsty horror).
EDIT: I asked for feedback and reader Garth Cummings took me up on it! I looked through Numenera sources but Garth found some of these in other Cypher books. “Beneficent, Heroic, and Lawful appeared in both Gods of the Fall and Expanded Worlds, and Empirical was in Predation. Earnest, Meddlesome, Relentless, and Serene were also in Expanded Worlds.” So, you can find forms of this elsewhere.
Out of the thirty two foci in this book, there are eleven that appeared in some form before. Most of them come from the Character Options book, though all have the same sorts of updates as in Discovery (including the ability options at Tier 3 and Tier 6): Battles Automatons, Defends the Weak, Fuses Mind and Machine, Hunts Abhumans, Metes Out Justice, Needs No Weapons, Never Says Die, and Sees Beyond. There is also one focus from Character Options 2 (Absorbs Energy), the Leads focus from the Numenera core book, and another from the Cypher System Rulebook (Moves Like a Cat). This leaves twenty one brand new foci, which is almost equal to the twenty eight reworked ones that appear in Numenera Discovery. Lots of options here.
Some of the new foci are concerned with the rules for communities and leadership: Acts Without Consequence (a combat-manipulation focus for defending people), Adjures the Leviathan (taking control of creatures threatening your community), Builds Tomorrow (modifying your community resources), Defends the Gate (a town-scale version of Defends the Weak), Descends From Nobility (mostly a party face focus but also a leader), Fights With a Horde (a leader more in line with Attila the Hun), Imparts Wisdom (a philosophical leader), Radiates Vitality (a community healer), Shepherds the Community (town champion and icon), and Wields Words Like Weapons (turn enemies against each other and keep a community together).
Other new foci are more focused on wrights and delves, people who are all about crazy numenera: Augments Flesh with Grafts (more surgical than Fuses Flesh and Steel), Brandishes an Exotic Shield (an evolving force field device), Breaks Down Walls (literally what is says on the tin), and Explores Yesterday (some leadership ability, but also an archaeologist of numenera).
The last group is sort of a catch-all assortment, but I also think they are all in the vein of mysterious and strange epitomizing Ninth Worlders: Dances with Dark Matter (the shadowmancers of Numenera), Emerged From the Obelisk (a bizarre, crystalline-bodied amnesiac), Learns from Adversity (a survivor who’s seen some stuff), Possesses a Shard of the Sun (for real), Shreds the Walls of the World (Kitty Pryde, eat your heart out), Thunders (obviously a lot of combat but also things like echolocation and amplifying sounds), and Touches the Sky (air control).
EDIT: Garth Cummings strikes again! There are also some foci that appear in other sources too, including Moves Like a Cat andPossesses a Shard of the Sun which I missed in Numenera Character Options. Descends from Nobility and Touches the Sky are apparently both in Expanded Worlds. All of these are changed from the original, though, with ability choices at Tiers 3 and 6.
To make this less of an “us and them” situation, Destiny includes some new abilities for the three character types in Numenera Discovery. If you’re bringing in the additional rules from Destiny, your glaives, nanos, and jacks all have options to let them play in this new world as well. Note that these aren’t additional choices, you just get this new stuff as a way to make you more relevant to the new metagames.
Glaives have abilities to defend communities (unsurprisingly) with a first tier ability to boost your community’s combat ability and an improved version at Tier 3. They also have two Tier 6 options (in addition to the fighting moves you pick at Tier 6) so that they can either lead a horde of beasts in defense of the community or gain a level 4 deputy to fight in their stead. Jacks gain a first tier ability to improve their community and fix problems, as well as an improved version at Tier 3. They also get a deputy at Tier 6 who can bet whatever you want. Nanos get similar abilities that are focused on scholarly stuff but are mechanically identical to the jack’s.
The arkus is the new community-based type. Other types have additional abilities to boost communities (as discussed above) but the arkai are certainly the masters of it. Where other types concentrate on combat or numenera, the arkus’s abilities directly impact their community. The glaive, for instance, has Combat Prowess to help with their damage, Trained in Armor to help with defense, weapons training, and physical skills. The arkus starts with expanded cypher-bearing, basic weapons, two separate social skills, a straight bonus to any community checks, and a Demeanor of Control that turns them into a force of will that others can’t help but listen to.
As social characters, they certainly resemble the glints from Character Options 2 and it seems clear that they are meant to replace them. The basics (Stat Pools, skill trainings, starting equipment, etc) are not-quite-identical and they also share some abilities. In Tier 1 both types have Connection With an Organization, Friendship (changed to Powerful Rhetoric), and arkai get Anecdote which is a broader form of the glint’s Encouragement.
Still, there are plenty of other abilities that are new to the arkus. Personally, I’d use one or the other (arkai if the campaign includes lots of community work, glints if not) and combine all the abilities into one big list where they don’t conflict. Taking a broad look, arkai are a different take on glints with less vagueness in their abilities. Instead of “Gather Information” in a basic sense or gaining some “Personal Insight” into NPCs, arkai have specific abilities. They can pull Jedi mind tricks, gain particular followers, establish a specific snitch in the community to tell them what’s happening, and so on. It feels tighter and clearly benefits from feedback after Character Options 2.
We’ll be looking next at the other two character types, the wright and the delve, as well as the advanced rules for salvaging and crafting numenera. See you then!