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.