January 29, 2016 at 6:59 pm #558
Good luck with your games, whether they’re this weekend or sometime down the road! You’re going to have a great time, and so will your players!
I’m going to do a followup post on the MCG site next week, and would love it if I could quote some comments from our first-time GMs. Please post something about your game here in the forum!
February 6, 2016 at 4:25 am #562
Last Wednesday night I held my first Numenera gaming session at my house and I have to say, it was a huge success. Our player group included two friends from my regular every-other Wednesday night Shadowrun group, along with an old friend I have recently reconnected with (as we both have recently moved back to the small town just outside of Portland, Oregon we grew up in. Three cheers for working remote!). My old friend had never played in a pen and paper game before, but her girlfriend is a big fan of D&D, so the two of them jumped on the opportunity when I put out the call for players on social media.
My original plan had been to start out with “The Devil’s Spine” campaign, but once I started to read the NaNewGaMo blog posts I decided to follow along with the suggestions I found there. I switched my efforts to prepping “The Beale of Boregal” and I am rather glad I did, that adventures overall structure I found very helpful for my level of GM experience which is practically none (this would mark only my third ever time sitting in the GM seat, the last time being back in 2011).
I knew I wanted to follow up this adventure by jumping into “The Devil’s Spine”, so when taking my personal notes on each of the Encounters I made sure to modify the statements muttered by the townsfolk of Embered Peaks, along with the things said by Boregal himself, to foreshadow future events. This would give the PC’s a reason to track down Baron Tichronus in Uxphon after they completed this adventure, along with a greater sense of connection and portent to some possible adventure paths I have in mind for after that campaign’s events. I have always loved sweeping story arcs in my tabletop campaigns, and I know that is a shared love with several of the other players in the group, so I wanted to make sure to keep the big picture in mind even from the beginning.
On the subject of the encounter notes, I think this was possibly the most helpful tip for me in all of the blog posts. On Monday night I took the time to describe all of the NPCs, locations, & creatures with at least one sentence. This allowed me to not only describe them better for the players when they appeared in the story, but it also allowed me to much more easily improvise when the players interacted with the world, as I had taken the time to really let the story sink in to my mind and become my own. For example, Lowd (Seria and Patel’s grandfather) I had described in my notes with the line:
“A life of working the land has helped him retain the strength of his younger days, though his mind has begun to go soft with age. His family do not hold it against him however, and still find much wisdom in his words. In fact they at times have found it a blessing, as his disposition has seemed to soften with his wits.”
I didn’t think too much of it at the time I wrote it, but that bit of description let me turn the encounter with Lowd into a round of verbal gymnastics with the parties face character (Ales, an Empathic Nano who Wields Power with Precision). Lowd would drop hints about the wildlife having acted “strangely” like the Pallones and Scutimorphs of late in stories from his youth, and then would promptly end up on a tangent about the weather, the difficulty of upkeep on the false woods sky mesh, or his favorite type of tuber stew. I ended up slipping pretty fully into this character and it seemed to be a highlight of the night, as it really gave Ales a chance to shine, and it gave that player (a naturally shy individual) a chance to feel comfortable fully playing their character.
I love the simplicity of the cypher system. I had a feeling I would like it when I first read through the Numenera rule book a few months ago, but I was rather surprised by just how much I wound up loving it once I had a chance to play with it. The biggest deterrent to taking the GM seat for me has always been the organizational scope of building out stat blocks for NPC characters on top of keeping track of the story and locations that the party explores. The time and energy involved has always kept me away, and I have always been able to tell that, for most of the GMs I have played with, the time and energy they spent preparing each session kept them pretty rigid from a story perspective, reluctant to veer off the rails they spent so much time creating.
Within just one session sitting at the GM seat with the cypher system I feel I can leave all of those fears behind. Coming up with a new encounter is suddenly as simple as attaching a number from 1-10 to whatever my imagination spawns. This ability to invent on the fly has left me feeling confident as a storyteller in a way I haven’t experienced before.
The party left off after our first session preparing to head to the Embered Peaks in search of the “machine-man presence” Seria had felt in her mind. With how easy improvisation is in this system I feel confident heading into our next session, regardless of if the party follows the clues to Boregal or decides they would rather throw me a curve ball and try to scale Mt. Zanlis to talk to the mountain instead. Either way I feel ready, and more importantly excited for many more nights of telling stories in the ninth world.
One last note, we played with all of the card decks, and I was really pleased with what they added to the experience. The ability to generate tangible cyphers on the fly helped the players feel confident in using them liberally, and the ability to hand out physical experience points left the players with a feeling of real reward for their actions. I was less sure what to do with the GM intrusion deck and the Weird deck, but I have full confidence they will prove their worth with time. I think at this point I have picked up all of the Numenera products released so far (despite only hearing about Numenera two months ago due to a chance encounter at Powell’s Books), and I am eagerly looking forward to the release of ‘Into the Deep’! From the bottom of my gamer heart, thank you for this game.
(p.s. are there any plans for an Artifact or an Oddities deck?)
edit: fixed some epic format fail, apparently this forum structure doesn’t like it when you copy and paste from google docs.
- This reply was modified 4 years, 4 months ago by Curtis.
February 6, 2016 at 8:16 am #564
Ah! I see now that there IS in fact an Artifact deck in the works, excellent! I just found the Into the Ninth World kickstarter page and am simultaneously excited for all the new content and sad I missed the window to give you my money. 😉
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