The last articles covered a lot of ground and in particular detail but it really just covered Parts 1 and 2 of Numenera Destiny. The book promises to expand options and flavor in your Numenera campaign and this is where we take a look at all that. Come with me into the heady world of building a settlement a billion years in the future!
There are six different chapters in Destiny about communities and how to run them: Chapter 25: Founding a Community, Chapter 26: Community Stats, Chapter 27: Community Actions, Chapter 28: Laying Out a Community, Chapter 29: Guiding a Community, and Chapter 30: Running A Destiny Campaign (the last of which is about other stuff in this book but with a heavy emphasis on the community-model of Numenera). All in all, the authors have 64 pages devoted specifically to Numenera communities, which is about 16% of the book.
Founding a Community and Laying Out a Community are mostly character advice sections for how to roleplaying and GM a scenario where characters establish a community in the Ninth World and help it to flourish. They cover topics such as communities in the Steadfast vs. the Beyond, adventure hooks for starting the community model, abstracted vs. mapped communities, founding a community vs. adopting one, various ready-to-use maps of communities, etc. They are great chapters with a lot of information that could easily see use in other game systems.
Community Stats and Community Actions are where the mechanical meat (ew) of the community system is. First of all, a community needs to have a group of people that is more than just a base for the PCs. When something reaches that level (whether it’s a village, a stronghold with a population, a spaceship, etc) then it starts being able to take community actions and it gains stats. Community stats are ranked with the usual scale of 1 to 10 that can often act as a level when you need to arbitrate something (typical NPC level or difficulty to pick a lock). It’s not quite the same since the community is not an entity and so you can’t roll to pickpocket the whole town, but for most cases it’s the same.
Communities gain seven stats in a profile that resembles a creature’s: Government (leadership and organization), Health (the number of able-bodied folks around), Infrastructure (the materials and buildings around), Damage Inflicted (for mass combat, discussed later), Armor (not as common, but from really strong walls and stuff), and Modifications and Combat (special abilities, like with a creature).
There are five different example communities in the book, each with about seven pages of material. Despite the increased length, these are like creature entries and follow the stats above as well as a deep-dive into the people, places, and things there. Umdera is a small community which is disassembled and moved all the time; Enthait is a large community of 25,000 built on the ruins of a more ancient complex; Rachid is a medium-sized community built on an isolated mesa that uses alien whispers as currency; Taracal is a massive arcology floating atop the Sea of Secrets southwest of the Steadfast; and Delend is a mountain city underneath of floating artifact of great power and mystery. Following these seven are eleven shorter entries that are more unformed communities and PCs can always choose to foster towns like Ballarad from the Jade Colossus book, Jutte from the Vortex adventure, Naradraen from The Thief, the Clave, and the Ultimatum adventure, or, of course, the town of Ellomyr. The book even suggests becoming the guardians of a major city like Qi or Auspar.
If you want to build your own, though, this is how that goes. If you’re founding a new place it usually ranks as 1 in all the stats; existing communities are ranked according to population from a Rank 1 community (250-500 people) to a Rank 5 community (more than 20,000). You then take a look at what buildings are around and see if it makes sense to boost a stat, based on the level of the building (more on that below) or on a special ability. You also factor in the community boosts from PCs and then map out the community so you know what you’re talking about.
So what do you do with a community? Well, obviously you can rely on it for generating plot hooks and fun NPCs but you can also grow it and nurture it like a shared character. This doubles as rules for mass combat as well, since hordes can take the same sort of mass actions as communities. A community action takes about an hour, although this depends on context and the size of things involved (the book mentions planets fighting which could take “years or centuries”). Actions might be fighting off invaders, invading someone else, dealing with a flood, building a new structure, or forming alliances in the surrounding area.
True to Cypher form, community actions have dead simple mechanics: no rolls required, just compare ranks. Communities can build things that are equal to their level or lower, they can throw up challenges with a level equal to their rank, and they will automatically deal damage during a conflict according to their rank. If a powerful community (say, rank 9) takes on a pipsqueak community (say, rank 3) then when they have a battle the powerful community will take 3 damage to health and infrastructure after the battle and the little one will take 9 damage (we’re assuming no modifiers here). Considering that the big one will have around 9 x 3 = 27 points of Health and the little one will have 3 x 3 = 9 points the conflict will be one-sided by default. If you want to set the community up against a tsunami or a horde of creatures it works the same way: just give the threat a rank and treat it as a community-scale threat.
A note on hordes, this is a lot more detailed in the actual book. There are about seven and a half pages of information on how to run hordes in Numenera Destiny and its another simple-but-brilliant system. As noted, a horde is just a community on the march according to these rules. Basically, if you have a horde of creatures then you can treat it as a horde with a rank equal to the creature’s level. A horde of Oorgolian soldiers is rank 4, a horde of margr is rank 2, etc. Some creatures have modifications, though: a horde of broken hounds has pack tactics and it’s +1 rank, a horde of ylaantivs deals +1 damage. There’s a big long list of different creatures of level 1-4 from Numenera Discovery, Numenera Destiny, and both Ninth World Bestiaries (higher level creatures are unlikely to be hordes). The book also has shorthand identifiers for special abilities with a list that includes flying hordes, patrolling hordes, or stealthy hordes. If there are creatures not included here (or you’re making up your own) then it’s a cinch to pull together fun abilities.
A mixed horde can be treated as a mix of abilities or just as a basic horde with nothing special on the community level. Two other margin cases are worth mentioning. Armies are a special kind of horde with a strong leadership that makes them more effective, giving them +1 rank, which lets you make a horde of creatures just a little tougher. There’s also a category called rampagining beast which is a one-creature horde. Something like a jiraskar from Numenera Discovery can be a threat to a community or even an army all on its own. Rampaging beasts are treated as a horde with a rank equal to the beast’s rank minus 3 or 4. Guidelines throughout this section let you make your own hordes and make them effective and cool. It might not count as a mass combat system but it’s pretty sweet.
This could have gone in the last update, but there’s one last bit of interesting stuff for the characters in Numenera Destiny: automatons. Designed with wrights in mind, the automatons in Chapter 10 (right after the numenera plans) are somewhere between cypher and creature. They are autonomous machines that are capable of some very useful actions whether that’s an alarm mech, an exploring aventron, a garden mech, or an all-purpose assistant. They require parts and iotum just like a numenera device but they don’t require activation. They can deplete, though, in which case you need to tinker with them and get them running again. Honestly, I thought wrights sounded fun but this is the part in the book where they started to sound interesting. Don’t skip it.
New Creatures and Characters
So what kind of new creatures are found in Numenera Destiny? Well, the book says it best: “Creatures in this chapter help the GM flesh out a community; provide a community with a foe, a pest, or an ally; or interact with community stats in some other fashion. Some of the creatures presented here deal less with community and more with themes of crafting, exploration, or leading others. And a few are included because they feature prominently in one or more of the adventures in part 7.”
Let’s start with the community creatures. These include threats that make good hordes like the electric babirasa, things that prey on small communities’ resources like the herd-stealing balithaur, massive creatures that destroy the landscape like a dread excavator or the choanid, and creatures like the automated construction-mech called the sferic that can actually help the community grow. Crafting creatures are things like the cynoclept which is made of precious amber crystal, the cobbled together mech shambler, the tentalced ryn that hungers for iotum, and the scrow who can become microscopic and then return to gather numenera to salvage (they’ve been “hiding within droplets” for thousands or millions of years, only recently returning… there may be such as thing as “too-Numenera“).
Creatures following the exploring theme are more like the gravity-mech anhedons who search for something they call the Meeting of All Things; the helpful cuidit who hides in iotum caches; flesh ghosts who seem to be clones of dead people; and the insectile oniscids who make their hive-villages in ruins. What is a creature related to the theme of leading others? Well there’s the Oorgolian envoy who joins the strange quasihumanoids called Oorgolians as a sort of Mouth of Sauron and the tlipsids who are robotic merchants willing to trade time for temporal goods.
Well, that’s about it for our overview of Numenera Destiny. There are more sections of the book, including four new adventures that all look great, and I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of the book’s potential. Bottom line? Get this book now.
Are you thinking you might not get Numenera Discovery? Doesn’t matter, get this anyways. It’ll work just as well with your original Numenera core book and you can utilize all the great new stuff anyways. Don’t really play Numenera as much as other Cypher games? Get this book. The crafting, community, and automaton rules are just as useful in The Strange or Unmasked or Gods of the Fall and they are so well-suited for Predation that you can expect a future post about adapting it. The ideas in here might be in the upcoming version of the Cypher System Rulebook but if you’re interested in them at all and you enjoy this system, don’t feel like you have to wait.
This book is filled with so many awesome ideas, both mechanically and story-wise, that it’s a little unbelievable. I was skeptical when the authors said they had two core rulebooks but Destiny truly feels like a second set of rules on par with and complementary two Numenera Discovery. If you like Numenera and want to be running the best campaign you can, you need this book now.