“Try Before You Buy” is an occasional segment of Astral Projections. It spotlights free (or nearly free) supplements, quick-start rules, and modules for various RPGs.
While I had some issues with this year’s Free RPG Day, it wasn’t with the offerings I saw. Since I could only pick one, I had a hard time deciding. Eventually I picked the Numenera module, since I haven’t had a chance to get the core book, and one of my gaming pals has been talking about the system.
“The Spire of the Hunting Sounds,” is what I consider the best type of Free RPG Day goodie: a full module with enough rules to run the module (Quick-start), including basic character creation. The booklet also includes QR code and link for extras, including pre-gen PCs. Even if you don’t run the scenario, the abridged rules and setting information will give a GM or group a good idea of whether they like the mechanics and setting enough to pick up the system.
The basic Cypher mechanic is simple, a d20 roll to achieve a target number or higher, with an increasing difficulty scale of 1-10. There are two unusual things about the resolution, however. First, while skill training, gear, circumstances, etc. modify dice rolls in nearly all games I know of, that isn’t the case with Numenera, where the GM modifies the target number. Another twist is that players do all the dice rolling, yes even for attacks against them, where they make a defense check. GMs also have ways to add complications, called Intrusions. The system seems simple enough to learn and use.
To avoid spoilers, I am not giving plot details. I found the plot interesting, although not the kind of thing I usually enjoy. I think it could be borrowed for other systems, especially those with a post-apocalyptic flavor, or what I think of as a mixed-genre game. Perhaps RIFTS? There are some alternate-reality bits in it as well. It might also work for some fantasy games, too.
Since it was a Free RPG Day giveaway, I felt it was only fair to let you all know if it was still available, other than from an FLGS with leftover copies or a fellow-gamer who doesn’t want theirs. So far, alas, it is not in the Monte Cook Games store. However, a Numenera Reddit user quotes MCG co-founder Shanna Germain as saying that per the Free RPG Day terms, it will be available later. I haven’t been able to find a specific date.
Overall, I found “Spire” to be a high-quality module, with a solid scenario, good artwork, and enough rules for a group to work with. If you are already running, or plan to run, Numenera, I recommend you pick it up when MCG makes it available.