I Just GM'd an Eight Player Game of Numenera and it was Great

This whole thing started after I listened to Chris Hussman on the Talking Table Top Podcast. He was vocal about his love of RPGs, and really made me think about my relationship with them and the shame I carry for loving them. All of the good friends that I've got have been made because of role playing games. I've met many of my friends in various places, but didn't become real friends until we'd shared the experience of playing some kind of role playing game together. This is true of the friends I made in high school, in college, and even now in my adult life. Recognizing that I've got this irrational shame for something I love really made me take a close look at it and realize that I should just ignore it and embrace the passion. That lead to me running a game of Numenera for eight of my fellow employees and having an amazing time with a lot of people I barely know.

My company was recently able to organize a mass trip for all of its remote employees, and I was going to have a free night thanks to flying back to central Wisconsin a day late. Feeling a bit inspired by the Talking Table Top episode I'd just listened to I decided I would organize a group of like minded developers and put together an RPG night. I got a room set up on Slack and invited all of the table top players I knew of and put it out there that I'd be willing to run a game one of the nights we were together. Over the course of the week I was at the summit, we ended up getting eight people who were interested in playing. Not wanting to turn anyone away, even though I feel running a game with more than five players is chaos, I told everyone to come and play. Luckily, one of my Tuesday night regulars was out with me and was more than happy to create additional characters. Another co-worker volunteered to host at her place, which had a fantastic view of San Francisco across the bay, and we were up and running.

Getting ready to run some weird discoveries.

Getting ready to run some weird discoveries.

Controlled Chaos

There were eight players in total for the game of Numenera I was going to run. Aside from my one Tuesday night regular, nobody had any experience with Numenera at all. This wasn't going to be an issue, as I'd had some experience getting Numenera up and running with players who had never played before thanks to running it at Gen Con for Monte Cook Games. I'd also just read through Darcy Ross's article about running one shots that had a good summary on how to get the important rules conveyed quickly. If you're often running one shots of Numenera, do yourself a favor and read that whole article. I've refined my introduction so it's much faster and doesn't get bogged down in the mechanics of the game.

Once I got the basics for the game out of the way it was time to go over the characters. This is another strength of the Cypher System, characters can be summed up quickly with a single sentence. I handed out the character sheets, gave everyone the brief run down of what the classes were, and everyone had their characters selected within minutes. Jim, my Tuesday regular, provided two more characters which I gave the two best names from the double GM session I ran at PitchCon this year: Bird Staco and Xyzzy.

The all important step of finding a character.

The all important step of finding a character.

Now that everyone was ready to play I launched into the adventure. I had lightly prepped the Guilty! adventure from the Weird Discoveries book. I'm not fond of running straight up dungeon crawls, and this would give the group a bunch of characters to interact with as they investigate a string of murders in the town of Akkoris. There were a lot of great moments during the night.

  • Crail and Haro both got their hands on samples of the notorious Blue Powder.
  • Etolas recorded a promo for a laundry in town against her will.
  • Tanasia foiled their suspect's escape by spraying anti-gravity spray on his boots.
  • Karner impressed Haro by knocking the suspect's weapon out of his hand with a deftly thrown dagger from across a room (major effect).
  • The man who was harboring the suspect was incapacitated when Haro threw Blue Powder into his mouth (minor effect).
  • Tanasia attacked the fog with her tattoo guns.
  • Crail tricked the fog into choking an illusion.
  • And ultimately, the vengeful varjellen was incapacitated by a crossbow bolt Haro stabbed him with that had been coated with Blue Powder.

I was very pleased at how well the whole night flowed with eight players. Their introduction to the game went very well, and everyone seemed to get into it very quickly. This once again reaffirms how I feel about the Cypher System, specifically Numenera. It makes for fantastic stories where everyone is getting involved. Those stories don't have to just be about killing monsters for them to be engaging from the very beginning. The group I ran this game for was also fantastic, and think a lot of what made the game work is their responsibility. The other bonus is that they're all co-workers, so I get to keep working with many of them again in the future.

Wrapping Up

Overall, the game was great. Everyone had a good time, and much fun was had. I do have a couple of things I need to remember for next time.

  • Get the creature deck and the cypher deck. Having those on had would have made it much easier to come up with monsters if I needed them, and random cyphers to reward the players for doing all of that investigating.
  • Create a cheat sheet for the pre-gen characters. Not much is needed, just a little blurb about what everyone's powers and cyphers do.

Like I said to my players, hopefully we'll be able to get together and give the Omicron Collective another adventure sometime in the future.

Nothing New This Week

Yeah, no big post this week. I got a bit busy with a mystery dinner, a football game, and a bunch of authentication work. I've got a trip coming up, but I plan to get some writing done so I'll have a new Shadow of the Demon Lord post up on Monday. If you've been following the Year of the Demon Lord campaign that Marc Plourde is running for us, he's got a new article up about it on his site. There's also a lot of information about it on the Year of the Demon Lord campaign page that I'm keeping up to date.

So, no worries, life just got a bit busy last week.

Wicked Ways - Planar Travel


  • Akmenos - Teifling priest of Asmodeus, currently in possession of the Book of Vile Darkness.
  • Brand - Half elf bard and priest of Asmodeus, coming to terms with the planning style of the rest of the group.
  • Geln Stone Stair Cutter - Dwarven barbarian, skeptical of all of this religious mumbo jumbo.
  • Oryn - Elven wizard, looking forward to raining fiery death upon his foes.
  • Tai Lung - Elven monk, going a bit crazy with his mechanical man and poison lab.

Session Summary

The group had hit the half-way point in their 32 week long ritual to break the seal that was keeping the demon Vetra Kali from entering their world. Their master, Cardinal Adrastus Thorn, had just appeared at the end of the previous session. This session would be the big move into the end of the campaign and it was going to start off with something I'd said I wouldn't do, throw the party into an encounter that was too powerful for them. Basically, the Cardinal killed them off as quickly as he could and they then found themselves in a waiting room in the Abyss. 

After a bit of paperwork they were introduced to Bazelbloaxx, a pit fiend who was in charge of new intakes. The group introduced themselves, listed the sins that probably got them sent to the Abyss and Bazelbloaxx found the filed contracts they had signed back in the first session. Brand was extremely forthcoming about what had been happening, though Akmenos still felt an odd loyalty to the Cardinal. Brand spilled all of the details on the Cardinal, and was urged by Geln to tell Bazelbloaxx the whole truth. Seeing an opportunity here, Bazelbloaxx offered to submit the forms that would strip the Cardinal of his title which would nullify their second loyalty. He could then resubmit the contract and get them back on the material plane to finish their work, thus elevating him back up the ranks of the Abyss as the devil who promoted them above the less than loyal Cardinal. All of this could be done if they would fetch a unicorn's horn which could be used to power a warding spell to protect the Horn from the Cardinal. Without that, the plan wouldn't be much help. The group agreed and they were sent off to the Feywild.

The group found themselves in the Grove of the Stallion and Serpent, a lush deciduous rain forest that was home to pixies, dryads, and all sorts of other wonderful creatures. It wasn't long before they began to ruin everything. Tai Lung snatched a pixie out of the air and proceeded to shake it up in his cupped hands to get it to talk. He eventually tired of the game and shoved the pixie in a sack and hung it on his belt. 

After wandering about the Feywild for a bit, they eventually ran afoul of some dryads who politely asked them to leave. The dryads were quickly slaughtered and sent running. Brand transformed into a dinosaur and chased after one of them, the rest of the group hot on his heels. As he was munching on the dryad the group came upon a large clearing in the forest, at the center of which was a hut on giant chicken legs. Still in dinosaur form, Brand attempted to eat the hut, but it tasted more like hut and less like chicken than he was hoping. Here they made a deal with an occupant of the hut, an elf named Zezeryck. They agreed to fetch his master's lost amulet from an oni in the woods and he'd tell them how to find the unicorn. Zezeryck also requested they find the sphinx at the mountains and answer its riddles to get him the runic sequence he would need to return home.

The sphinx was found, riddles answered. They even answered an additional riddle to get one method of destroying the Book of Vile Darkness, have a planetar pierce it. The oni was also tracked down and slain and the amulet of planar shifting recovered.

How'd Things Go?

I had no intention of letting the PCs escape the Cardinal at the beginning. Disintegrate and Power Word Kill are massively powerful spells, and were pretty effective at wiping out most of the group. However, there was only one NPC so he couldn't take out all of the characters as quickly as I needed him to. Eventually, I had to break the rules and ended the fight early. It mostly worked out, but it could have gone a bit smoother.

The waiting room and devil in the abyss was pretty entertaining. It was interesting to see the characters throw everything on the table, which was a fun turnaround.

I dropped Baba Yaga's hut into the game as a callback to our previous campaign. At the end of that campaign, one of the characters became indentured to Baba Yaga. I thought having them show up here would be a fun little surprise. Zezeryck is also the character from the campaign who bears the most in common with this group. 

Tossing a few riddles at the group was also a good change of pace. Obviously, I gave them the hardest riddle first, thinking it was an easier one. They managed to answer all of them, so there was no fight with a sphinx this time around.

Overall, it was a decent session, even with the railroading at the beginning. We'll be wrapping up the trip to the Feywild in the next session and moving things along. However, we've only got two more sessions scheduled this year. Hopefully the holidays don't kill our momentum.

Last Week in Review #8

Well, Friday really snuck up on me this week. Things got really busy in all sorts of ways. Aside from my current project really getting rolling, I found myself getting things prepared for my D&D campaign. That session summary will be going up on Monday. Then on Wednesday I was able to sit down and play a game of Horus Heresy, which was super complicated and a lot of fun. Last night we wrapped our third session of Year of the Demon Lord and I ended up spending some time trying to figure out what I want to do for level 2.

I've only got one thing to post here today, so as always send me more stuff at Twitter of Google+.

Memoirs of Reudan - Chapter 3

Troy put together his narrative write up of the second session and took it upon himself to resolve the bandit issue. Having the month of downtime with loose ends that needed to be cleaned up was an interesting problem. Troy's solution was fun, and Marc wove it into our campaign's history. He even used an idea from 13th Age (which he draws a lot of inspiration from) to have us detail the month of downtime.

Wicked Ways - Post Assault Wrap Up


  • Akmenos - Teifling priest of Asmodeus, currently in possession of the Book of Vile Darkness.
  • Brand - Half elf bard and priest of Asmodeus, coming to terms with the planning style of the rest of the group.
  • Geln Stone Stair Cutter - Dwarven barbarian, skeptical of all of this religious mumbo jumbo.
  • Oryn - Elven wizard, looking forward to raining fiery death upon his foes.
  • Tai Lung - Elven monk, going a bit crazy with his mechanical man and poison lab.

Session Summary

I'm not going to be putting together a narrative for this session as I didn't write things up immediately after they happened. Instead, I'm going to summarize the events and break down what did and didn't work. Without further ado, here's what went on during the session.

The Horn was in rough shape after the assault during the previous session. The entire entrance to the second floor had been ripped open by a dragon and the steps leading up to it had been demolished by one of the group's immovable rod traps. The first order of business was to get started on fixing things up over there, so they tasked Geln with the repairs. They didn't go well, and after three weeks, and two or three dead orphan minions they repairs are about half-way done. More immovable rods were put into production, along with a new order of cloaks of protection. Because they are making so many magical items, their coffers were slowly depleting which meant the shop in town had to work extra hard to bring in more cash. Even with that extra money coming in, the group was starting to burn through their gold.

While all of this work was going on the group was visited by Tiadora, Cardinal Thorn's right hand devil. She expressed concern about his abduction of the younger paladin, Richard Havelyn, and requested the group discretely look into it. They eventually uncovered a family history that was in the elder paladin's quarters in Farholde which suggested Cardinal Thorn had once been Richard Havelyn's brother but was excised from the family. They didn't reveal this information to Tiadora when they spoke with her, and assured her everything was fine.

Finally, the half-way point of the ritual was upon them. Everything was going along just fine when a pair of angels burst through the protective green flames at the top of the tower and attempted to disrupt the ceremony. Things got pretty dire when a third extremely powerful angel arrived. Evil prevailed in the end and the ritual continued. Just as things were wrapping up the group had another unexpected visitor, Cardinal Thorn.

How'd Things Go?

There were a couple of things I wanted to resolve this session. First of all, I wanted the group to uncover the Cardinal's link to Lord Havelyn. Dropping Tiadora in there pushed them in that direction, but they were kind of at a loss as to where to start. I scrambled a bit as I tried to come up with a decent lead for them that would put Lord Havelyn's posessions in their hands. They were asking Tiadora a bunch of questions and I was able to eventually work it into the conversation that they should check out the inn he'd been staying at in Farholde. This whole setup was a bit forced, but it worked out in the end.

Their investigation was pretty fun. They had a run in with the town guard as Tai Lung and Geln were attempting to scale the inn to get into Havelyn's room. This made for an entertaining little side story that surprisingly didn't escalate into bloodshed. The group got their hands on Havelyn's stuff and found the family history that linked the Cardinal to the paladins.

The big fight with the angels toward the end of the night was interesting. I started it off with a pair of angels that would be pretty well balanced for the four of them. At least, it would have been balanced according to the math in the DM Guide. That balancing system is not great. If followed, the encounter balancing creates encounters that are just way too underpowered. To compenstate for this, I had a third angel show up who was extremely overpowered. It was really intense, and the group barely managed to fight off the angels and "save the day".

Overall, I'd say this wasn't a great session. Running an evil organization has been great to just keep things interesting, but the surrounding adventure was a bit too loose. I'm not terribly disappointed by this, however. This session acted as more of a bridge into the wrap up for this campaign. We're about to get into some really interesting stuff.