Last time I talked about Numenera Destiny, it was a lot of information all at once: lists of descriptors and foci, details on the arkus’s abilities, etc. This was of necessity but today I’m happy to dig a little deeper into a specific aspect of this new vision for Numenera: the wright, the delve, and how to salvage and craft numenera devices.
When we get into the types that concentrate on the numenera, it’s important to point out one big change that I’ve seen a lot of people weighing in on. Normally, if there are skills that a character doesn’t have any mention of then they are just neutral in it and they roll against the difficulty as normal. However, according to the new rules there are three skills that characters have an inability in by default (that is, checks are +1 difficulty): crafting numenera, salvagaing numenera, and understanding numenera. This is hidden away in a sidebar (page 27 of Discovery for you following at home) and is described in the Slavaging and Crafting sections of Destiny. I’ll get into this more next time, including my assessment of it, but it can cause some confusion.
For instance, the Skills section of the wright reads as follows: You are trained in crafting numenera. In addition, you are trained in a crafting skill in which you are not already trained. Choose one of the following: salvaging numenera, understanding numenera, engineering, woodcrafting, armoring, weaponsmithing, or another crafting skill of your choice. You have an inability in salvaging numenera and understanding numenera. Enabler.
This is misleading because everyone has an inability in salvaging numenera and understanding numenera. Again, this is a change from default and not everyone is happy about it. However, wrights get the chance to become trained in these skills (effectively jumping up two levels) as part of their type abilities. They also have the ability Community Builder which boosts a community’s infrastructure (that’s a game term, we’ll get there next time). they have two numenera plans which allow them to make new devices (they don’t actually start with cyphers), and they have the Always Tinkering ability which effectively means they’re never without a cypher. When they have an hour or two of downtime they can make a cypher two levels below their norm out of whatever’s lying around. They’re the only ones who can use these cyphers but still… damn.
And those are just their automatic abilities! They also have techniques to choose from, things like Deconstruct (asset to salvaging items), Natural Crafter (non-numenera items are better), Scamble Machine (messing up some machine in the area), and Right Tool for the Job (turn spare iotum, described below, into a ready tool). Basically, they are the ones who know cyphers inside and out as well as the best at innovating with items. In many ways the wright seems like they are related to the nano the way that the artificer is related to the wizard and sorcerer in D&D. They might have similar effects (creating magical displays and understanding the arcane) but they go about it very differently and there’s more than enough room for both.
Delves are a lot more like the character types in Discovery in terms of basic abilities, though their chosen abilities are more like the wright. They start with cyphers and training in certain skills, as well as having a boost to a community’s ability to find resources and trade with other communities. A lot of their abilities revolve around cyphers like the wright’s (in fact, they have some of the same abilities such as Right Tool for the Job) but they also have a lot of exploratory abilities which makes them a lot like the explorer from the Cypher System Rulebook… and a lot like the seeker from Character Options 2 for Numenera.
So how does the delve compare to the seeker? Well, pretty closely in a lot of ways. The seeker has training in numenera (something which needs some clarification given the issues listed above) and they are trained in Might whereas the delve gets a choice of various numenera- and secret-related skills and a sweet community ability. They have similar abilities but the delve is just better written and more polished. For example, a seeker can get a bonus fighting an automaton or reading ancient text… yipee. On the other hand, a delve gets the ability to blaze new trails and negotiate with strangers. It’s just a more rounded and interesting so I would personally suggest that players pick this one even if you aren’t using the community or crafting rules.
The crux of the expanded item rules in Numenera Destiny is iotum. Like “shin,” this is a catch-all term for building materials that can be used to create numenera devices. According to the book it might be “slivers of scrap, tiny motes trapped in force, silvery canisters filled with colorless goo, or bubbling fluid contained within etched stronglass containers the size of small houses.” It’s whatever you need it to be later in the narrative when it actually gets used.
So where do you get iotum? Well, like everything in the Ninth World you take it out of things from the past. Although most people are pretty bad at salvaging bits of numenera (see the discussion under the Wright above) anyone can try to do it and might actually succeed. You make a check (or use something like the nano’s Scan ability) to find a potential source and you take it apart. It can be anything above or whatever else you imagine and the difficulty is generally equal to the level of the source (i.e. salvaging parts from a level 4 Numenera is a level 3 task.) but the GM can modify this for circumstances.
Succeeding means that you roll randomly for cyphers and iotum (unless the GM set this up with treasure tables beforehand) and you’re off and running. There’s a big table of random iotum results (unless you’re trying to find something specific) and these aren’t vague substances and items: there are pages of iotum descriptions (from smart-matter “apt clay” to the provocatively named “amber crystal”) and they are useful outside of crafting as well. This is more than just a crafting minigame, but a powerful worldbuilding extension to the Ninth World setting.
Crafting in Numera Destiny is both as simple and as complicated as salvaging. On the face of it, it’s pretty easy: you make a roll against a difficulty that’s typically the level of what you’re making and if you make it then you do the thing. However, this book provides a ton of guidance to players and GMs to make sure they have an idea of how to actually implement this.
Cyphers and artifacts already have levels associated with them (and we’ll get to those in a bit) but the book provides guidelines on levels for everyday objects, structures, and vehicles as well as building times for all of these and numenera objects. There are details for repairing broken things, modifying objects you find or make, and attempting simultaneous crafting projects. All of these create the opportunity to construct fantastic amounts of numenera, held in check by the need to have plans (like an artificer’s schema in Eberron) and to have the specialized iotum for building. It still seems like there is an opportunity for a wright (or another enterprising type) to ruin their local economy with created numenera, but not more than D&D arcanists doing the same. It’s ultimately up to the GM to manage, just like every system.
The numenera crafting and the salvage aspects of Numenera Destiny are great. They are simple and the basics feel like something I could have created (which makes me feel like they’d fit my game well) but the additional considerations and design show a lot of attention to detail. There is more than enough to have a numenera-crafting, dungeon-stripping party in Numenera and have it feel dynamic and fun.
Next time we’ll be wrapping up our look at Numenera Destiny with a look at the community rules. Join us then!