Posted by : David Guyll November 19, 2013

Our weekly game has moved to a Monday schedule, but given that it has run into several hiccups—which is why there has not been a play report in some time—a few of us have decided to continue getting together on Friday to roll some dice, starting with Numenera's The Devil's Spine.

So if you are planning on playing it, do not read this.

Cast
  • Junloo, a learned jack who explores dark places
  • Zuko, a swift nano who rides the lightning.
The backstory summary is that the pair normally occupies their time exploring the pipes and cliffs of Uxphon in their search for deliciously expensive numenera. During one of their forays around the Tichronus estate they noticed people being taken inside, and so figured they might as well see what was going on because thugs abducting people is the kind of thing you should
nose in on.

They waited for night to fall and the staff to leave before making their move, walking right through the front door after Junloo picked the lock. Inside they found lots of books on warfare, exotic tapestries depicting various humanoids and monsters engaged in combat, and a variety of unusual and excessively violent-looking weapons mounted on the walls. So thugs and abductions aside, still probably not the kind of place you would want to get caught nosing around in.

The study to the left did not seem much different, but while Zuko was rifling through the literary masturbation mistakenly referred to as memoirs he found a loose panel with four strange-looking buttons underneath. After some unsuccessful fiddling Junloo popped the panel off, and with a few minutes of jury-rigging managed to trigger a mechanism that revealed a set of stairs descending beneath the estate. Underground they found a circular chamber filled with strange pods...growing out of corpses.

Just to recap, we have thugs, abductions, a secret underground lair, and corpse-pods. Undeterred they continued through a fleshy tunnel leading out of the room, but to their credit they at least avoided touching the pods...and then they started coming out of the walls.

They looked like people, just naked and with dark, spiky growths protruding from their backs. Zuko tried to talk to them, but after getting no response decided to try stun-zapping one so he could try out his telepathic communicator, while Junloo busied herself trying to rip the spiky bits off of another one's back. Eventually they both succeeded on their tasks with similar degrees of satisfaction: Junloo learned that the extraction proved to fatal, but still walked away with a souvenir, and Zuko actually got the other one to communicate after liberal the application of shock therapy.

It made references to "mother", and said that it could take them to her once they were properly—and both ominously and predictably—prepared. They guessed what was about to happen right before being overwhelmed by a swarm of spine-hugging worms. It was a painful process, but at least they would get to see mother. She sounds pleasant, dwelling in an underground lair with her garden of corpse fungus.

Behind the Scenes
Since players roll all the dice, you do not need a lot of XP to level up, and you can add in complications on a natural 1—well, without paying for them at any rate—this game reminds me of a slightly crunchier version of Dungeon World, which is not a bad thing.

I enjoyed making their lives harder, though I might have been a bit too generous with the complication XP. At the very least they got off easy because the source of their complication would get exploded before it could do anything relevant.

Given that players are "expected" to burn XP on temporary benefits, I definitely wish the Numenera screen had was all the possible uses for it. I will just need to prepare a sheet for the next game. The only real issue seems to be explaining how tricks/esoteries, stat pools, Edge, and Effort all play together.

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